Barnaby Joyce has claimed he has “no intentions whatsoever” of challenging Michael McCormack for leadership of the National Party despite conflicting comments made earlier in the week.
The former deputy prime minister appeared on Today on Wednesday morning to set the record straight, claiming he is completely behind Nationals party leader and Deputy Prime Minister McCormack and is not intending to run for the top job within his party.
This was a complete backflip from his message on Monday morning where he said during an interview with ABC Radio that he would feel no guilt challenging the current leader and would stand for the job should McCormack be ousted.
“We are going to go to this election with @M_McCormackMP and with @ScottMorrisonMP and … I hope that we do everything we can to get them federally elected.” @Barnaby_Joyce denies he is after the National Party Leadership. #9Today pic.twitter.com/6l67Bk9lEw
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) March 12, 2019
Speaking to host Today Deb Knight on Wednesday, Joyce said he is in full support of his colleague.
“I have no intensions whatsoever, I don’t know how many times I have to say this, to do anything but make sure Michael McCormack is the deputy prime minister,” he exclaimed.
“We are going to go to this election with Michael McCormack and with Scott Morrison and I hope we can do everything we can to get them federally elected.”
The 51-year-old continued by explaining that it’s not uncommon for politicians to try step into a position when one opens during a leadership spill.
“If any party has no one in the leadership position by reason of a spill, lots of people will throw their hats in,” he added. “It’s a statement of the bleeding obvious.”
Joyce said on Monday he claimed he would be eager to take on the role – if and only if certain events took place.
“I am not going to call a spill, I am not looking for numbers,” he said on the radio station. “If there was a spill and the position’s vacant, I am the elected deputy prime minister of Australia, so I’d have no guilt at all in standing, but I don’t see that happening.”
Joyce went on to say he is in no way looking for a spill, especially during such a crucial time in politics.
“People say ‘oh, the leadership’s toppled’ – no, it wouldn’t be, because I’m the elected leader at the last elected federal election,” he explained to the ABC. “But I’m not sourcing the job out. I’m certainly not looking for a spill. Certainly do not want that in budget week, absolutely do not want that.”
Over the past few days the National Party has been in the midst of some public arguments, primarily over a coal power plan, with comments thrown back and forth between Joyce and McCormack.
During the interview on Monday with ABC Radio, Joyce claimed the Nationals were “not married” to the Liberal Party. It didn’t take long for McCormack to take a swipe at the former politician, touching on Joyce’s controversial affair with his current partner Vikki Campion.
“I understand when you have a marriage that it’s a two-way relationship,” The Guardian reports he said. “You don’t always get what you want but you have to work together to build better outcomes for your family.”