‘Just shut up’: Nats slam Joyce
Barnaby Joyce and his colleagues have been told to "just shut up" and "stop navel-gazing" as a rift opens in the Coalition over a coal-fired power station.
The backlash from frustrated National and Liberal MPs comes after Mr Joyce's call for the power station was slapped down by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
It also comes as speculation mounts the Nationals could have a leadership spill shortly after the election to roll leader Michael McCormack.
NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro delivered a blunt message for his federal colleagues bickering about energy and leadership this morning: "Just shut up."
"It's simple. Stop navel-gazing," he said.
"Stop talking about yourselves."
Any federal disunity could hurt the NSW's Nationals chances at the upcoming state election.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh also blasted Mr Joyce, saying people were "shaking their heads" at his behaviour.
"Barnaby Joyce had the support and respect of his colleagues and the party when he was deputy prime minister, and he owes that to the current deputy prime minister," Mr Walsh told ABC radio.
He said the fact the ex-leader was not doing so "says more about Barnaby than it does about the Nationals."
A team is always greater than any individual, Mr Walsh said.
"Someone should take Barnaby aside and explain that to him."
The Western Australian branch of the Nationals has also distanced itself from Mr Joyce and cautioned against reinstalling him as the national leader.
Meanwhile, Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie rebuked her colleague, saying Australians were "frustrated" with his behaviour.
"What Barnaby Joyce is saying publicly is very different from what the party room is saying," Ms McKenzie told reporters this morning.
"I think Australia is frustrated that there's a politician out there who's not focused on their needs and issues," she said.
"It's really clear that when you're out on the ground talking to communities … that power prices is one of the number one issues. Cost of living is really, really biting out there and so we need to make sure our policies address that."
The Sports Minister added that the Nationals should not be "talking about ourselves".
She insisted the government's policy for a "technology neutral approach" to base load power was the best way to push electricity prices down.
"My advice to all my team is to focus on the needs and interests of regional Australia," the minister said.
Last night, Mr Joyce warned that the coal issue could sever the Coalition agreement.
He told The Australian there was "no law saying the Nationals and Liberals must be together".
"It is misleading to tell people that we are bound by covenant to always be together," Mr Joyce said. "The only thing we are bound by is that we must represent our people to the best of our abilities."
Victorian Liberal MP Tim Wilson rejected his call today, saying that if coal projects stacked up financially the private sector would build them.
"I'm not a fan of the government getting involved and building a new coal-fired power station," he told ABC radio.
"I don't believe that's coalition policy or ever has been."
North Sydney Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman agreed, telling ABC radio: "I don't believe that the federal government should be building, owning or operating power stations that the private sector has indicated just simply don't stack up either economically or environmentally."
The issue is becoming a major issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison ahead of the election as he faces calls from six other Queensland Nationals MP for the federal government to bankroll a coal-fired power station in their state.
The rebels also want the government's "big stick" energy bill put to a vote during budget week, despite the divestiture plan looking likely to lose.
Mr Joyce rejected the prime minister's claim yesterday that the Queensland state government wouldn't give a coal-fired power station the go-ahead.
"Let the Labor Party say so," he said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has previously said that a new coal-fired power plant would keep power prices higher for 40 years.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly and Nationals MP Keith Pitt have both conceded they don't know how taxpayer money may be used under the government's underwriting plan.
While the expressions of interest may be subject to confidentiality agreements, voters are looking for clear answers on the hot topic of coal, particularly in the lead up to an election.
Mr Pitt - one of the six Queensland Nationals who are sparking up about energy - insists he is not wedded to coal, but finds his government's policy hard to articulate.
The MP hopes to take something "tangible" to the next election.
- with AAP