Barnaby Joyce says he won’t rule out returning as the National Party leader, but concedes he doesn’t expect to make a comeback.
The former deputy prime minister told reporters on Tuesday, he wishes his successor Michael McCormack “the very best” and will be satisfied on the backbench.
“For any person in that position, I do nothing more than wish them the very best on behalf of our nation because that is what the job is for,” he said, reports Fairfax.
When asked if he planned on returning to the top job one day, Joyce refused to rule out the idea.
“I never rule anything in or anything out, right, because otherwise later in life you look like a hypocrite … I don’t expect to ever return,” he said.
He added that he would do the “very best job I possibly can in any role given to me”.
After officially resigning from his post on Monday, Joyce moved to the backbench with Liberal, and resident trouble-maker, Tony Abbott. Asked if he would be like Abbott and speak out against government leadership when he disagreed with them, Joyce remained coy.
“I will be Barnaby,” he said.
It comes after news broke yesterday that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had requested an investigation into whether Joyce breached ministerial standards while he was was Deputy PM. Turnbull called off the investigation following Joyce’s resignation, but the Nationals’ member is now facing a second investigation into his and his new partner Vikki Campion’s travel and accommodation claims.
Joyce has denied any wrongdoing and says he doubts the investigation will produce anything of interest.
“Everybody’s been through every iteration. It’s just another poring through what’s already been gone through,” he said.
The month of political turmoil has taken its toll on the National Party, with outspoken MP George Christensen calling for the party to split from the Liberals and end the coalition.
“I believe the formal Coalition is too restrictive. I would rather see a Liberal Prime Minister, Liberal Deputy Prime Minister, and a full cabinet of Liberal Ministers than have to compromise our values and the welfare of the good people we represent,” he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
He also said he believed the Liberal Party has begun “lurching further away from the values we [the National Party] still hold”.
“The National Party should be in coalition with the people who work hard to build this country, to feed its people, and to secure a better future for our children,” he wrote, before adding: “I need the support of the National Party, not the shackles of an aimless Liberal Party.”