Barnaby Joyce has declared that he is still the elected deputy prime minister.
Barnaby Joyce has declared that he is still the elected deputy prime minister. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Local members respond to talk of a leadership challenge

A POTENTIAL leadership challenge seemed to be in the offing for the Nationals this week after Barnaby Joyce declared himself to be the "elected Deputy Prime Minister".

But the region's federal members have both downplayed Mr Joyce's claims, insisting their support lies with current party leader Michael McCormack.

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt's response was short and to the point.

"There is no vacancy or ballot for the leader of the National Party and Michael McCormack is the leader and Deputy Prime Minister," he told the Chronicle.

Meanwhile member for Wide Bay, Llew O'Brien, said Mr McCormack had the confidence and support of the party room.

"As leader he and I have worked together to deliver in spades for Wide Bay, including $800 million for the Bruce Highway Cooroy to Curra Section D project which will better connect Maryborough to Brisbane," Mr O'Brien said.

"We're also working together to bring the Nioa Rheinmetall project to Maryborough to create new jobs in Wide Bay.

"Michael and I have also worked together to secure a $1.5 million Liberal Nationals Government investment in Maryborough's Dale and Meyers Timber.

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"These are transformative projects that I've been championing as part of the Coalition team and demonstrate our strong commitment to the future prosperity of Maryborough and Wide Bay."

Mr Joyce has since said his comments were a "misstep" but still maintains he would try for the leadership if a spill was called.

"I've always said that," he said.

"You are stating the bleeding obvious.

"If any party has nobody in the leadership position by reason of a spill, then lots of people will throw their hats in - it's a statement of the bleeding obvious."

Mr Joyce was forced to step down from the leadership in February last year after a sexual harassment claim came to light.

Mr Joyce denied the allegation and an investigation by the party proved inconclusive.