Riverina MP Michael McCormack has denied that some of his National Party colleagues will attempt to replace him as leader and Deputy Prime Minister.
“The National Party is right behind me,” Mr McCormack told Sky News.
“I have spoken to my colleagues as I do just about every day, certainly when I am in Parliament that's a regular occurrence, not just once but several times each day, and I have the support.”
It has been widely reported that some Nationals MPs, mostly based in Queensland, have been agitating for a change in leader.
Wagga National Party branch member Julian McLaren backed Mr McCormack and said he was “a good man”.
“I’m not aware of any challenge. I do not think there will be any challenge. Michael is delivering; that’s the bottom line, that’s what people want him to do,” Mr McLaren said.
“He is being a very capable leader.
“I don’t think people live in the bubble of politics like insiders do and I think, at the end of the day, they want good results for regional communities, and that’s what Michael is doing.”
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said party leadership was a matter for the Nationals but the region had benefited from having its MP become the Deputy Prime Minister.
“Michael McCormack has been a strong advocate for the city of Wagga,” he said.
“It certainly helps if your local MP happens to be the deputy prime minister or the premier or deputy premier.
“It certainly gives the electorate a higher profile when that is the case.”
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has been suggested as a replacement.
Mr Joyce has denied actively seeking the role but has said he would take up the position if it was offered.
Mr McCormack was elected leader of the Nationals in February when Mr Joyce stepped down after it was revealed he was expecting a baby with his former staff member.
Supporters of Mr McCormack claim Mr Joyce’s lack of credibility over family values, having left his wife and children over an extramarital affair, would be too damaging with female and socially conservative voters.
Mr Joyce supporters claim Mr McCormack does not have enough name recognition among voters and he has not been able to advance the Nationals’ agenda with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Mr McCormack has come in for particular criticism over the stalled attempt to introduce a new class of visa for foreign farm workers to help end a labour shortage.
If Mr McCormack loses his position as Deputy Prime Minister, he would also lose his seat on Australia’s National Security Committee.
The committee is the peak body for making Australia’s national security decisions in conjunction with the heads of the nation’s military intelligence and spy agencies.
He would also rely on the new leader to decide if he could keep his infrastructure and transport portfolio.
Mr McCormack’s salary would be cut by about $66,000 if he was demoted to being a cabinet minister and cut by $213,000 if any new leader pushed him back to being an ordinary backbench MP.
Mr McCormack would also lose significant entitlements for offices, staff and travel.
Queensland LNP MP Michelle Landry has stated on social media that there was “no truth in the myth and rumour of a potential leadership change”.
Gippsland MP Darren Chester has come out in support of Mr McCormack and noted that his opponents have not been willing to put their names to their comments.
Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie expressed her support in Parliament this week for Mr McCormack.
One of Mr McCormack’s political opponents has also voiced support for the Riverina MP.
Wakefield Labor MP Nick Champion claimed on Sky News that Mr Joyce was “tearing down a good man”.
“Michael McCormack is a good individual. He’s a hard worker for country Australia. I disagree with him on many issues, but he does his best,” Mr Champion said.
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