News

Candidates under scrutiny

By Country News

Barnaby Joyce is going through a tougher new vetting process to win Nationals preselection for the federal seat he already holds.

Every Nationals candidate is being put under the microscope after the Section 44 crisis, which saw more than a dozen MPs forced to resign from parliament due to ineligibility.

Nationals federal president Larry Anthony expects Mr Joyce to successfully pass vetting for his NSW seat of New England.

But some party members are refusing to support Mr Joyce’s candidacy because they fear he has more skeletons in his closet, it was reported on Wednesday.

Mr Anthony said the former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader, who stood down this year after admitting to having an extramarital affair, was going through the same internal vetting process as every candidate in the country.

The new process was introduced after a number of MPs across several parties were found to be ineligible because they held dual citizenship — including Mr Joyce.

‘‘He’s got to get through that like everyone else,’’ Mr Anthony said on Wednesday.

‘‘I have every confidence that he’ll get through that process.’’

It is believed some party members are arguing Mr Joyce did not declare his extramarital affair with former staffer Vikki Campion when he filled in his paperwork ahead of the federal election in 2016.

But Nationals leader Michael McCormack said Mr Joyce had the support of his party colleagues.

‘‘He’s going through the normal vetting processes as is the case with all National party candidates, whether they’re a candidate, whether they’re a sitting member, indeed whether they’re the deputy prime minister as I am,’’ he said.

‘‘I went through the same vetting process and you have to fill out a long and involved form, and you have to make certain undertakings.’’

Mr Anthony said the preselection for New England would be held on November 17, and a couple of hundred local Nationals members would get to vote on who should be their candidate.

Labor shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said he wasn’t surprised Nationals preselectors were having second thoughts.

‘‘Barnaby Joyce is the most overrated politician in modern Australia,’’ he told reporters.

Mr Joyce won a by-election in 2017 forced by the discovery of his dual citizenship.

He resigned as leader of the party in February after his affair with Ms Campion and her pregnancy was revealed and went to the backbench until he was appointed a special envoy for drought assistance by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.