Barnaby: ‘I’m the elected deputy PM’ - forgets own boss
Barnaby Joyce has sensationally claimed he remains "the elected deputy prime minister of Australia" and argued the Nationals are not "married" to their coalition partners in the Liberals.
Mr Joyce, who was dumped from the leadership role last year, made the extraordinary remarks during an interview with ABC Radio National this morning.
Mr Joyce said he would have "no guilt" at standing to be the leader of the Nationals again if there was a spill.
"I am the elected deputy prime minister of Australia," he said, bizarrely comparing himself to Malcolm Turnbull, who was dumped as prime minister last year.
Host Fran Kelly asked Mr Joyce whether his comments sounded a bit like a sense of entitlement.
"No it doesn't," Mr Joyce said. "Because the entitlement comes from the Australian people at the election and it's not so much an entitlement, it's a responsibility, a reflection and a respect of their views."
Mr Joyce's comments have been described as sounding "almost unhinged".
Mr Joyce resigned the leadership of the National Party last year after a sexual harassment complaint from businesswoman Catherine Marriott followed weeks of damaging headlines over revelations he was having affair and a baby with former staffer Vikki Campion.
An eight-month investigation conducted by the Nationals found "insufficient evidence" to support the harassment claim.
Mr Joyce is now clearly positioning himself for a tilt at the Nationals leadership and insists he will not feel guilty taking it from current leader Michael McCormack.
"I am not going to call a spill, I am not looking for numbers," he told ABC Radio National on Monday.
"If there was a spill, the position is vacant, I am the elected deputy prime minister of Australia, so I'd have no guilt at all standing - but I don't see that happening."
Mr Joyce has also called for the Morrison government to support a new coal fired power plant.
His staunch pro-coal stance puts him at odds with Nationals leader Michael McCormack, who declared at the weekend he was merely "not against" coal projects if they stacked up financially.
His clarion call is squarely aimed at six Queensland Nationals rebels who are demanding the federal government fund a coal-fired station in their state.
Investment in coal-fired power would be electoral poison in urban Liberal Party-held electorates in southern states, where voters are demanding stronger action on climate change.
Mr Joyce angrily rejected suggestions he was harming the Liberal Party's chances at the election in May by calling for more coal, arguing he was standing up for Nationals voters.
"We are not married to the Liberal Party," he said.
"If we're going to agree with everything they say, we should join the Liberal Party."
Mr McCormack, who is under internal pressure to take stronger action on energy policy, made some extraordinary claims of his own on Sunday as he railed against renewables and climate change action.
He argued pensioners would be "shivering all winter" and "melting all summer" if Labor wins the election and legislates a 45 per cent emissions reduction target. "I mean sure, go down that path, but forget night footy, forget night cricket," he said.
"You'll have pensioners turning off their power because they won't be able to afford it, and they'll be shivering all winter, and they'll be melting all summer."
As the debate on coal rages on, new research from the Australian National University has found National Party-held electorates are the most vulnerable to climate change.
The six Queensland Nationals are also demanding the Morrison government put its "big stick" energy bill to a vote during budget week.
However, Queensland Liberal National Party leader Deb Freckleton has slapped down her federal colleagues, arguing the shelved divestiture laws are not the answer to the state's power bill woes.