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McCormack denies leadership threat

By Alana Christensen

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has thrown cold water on rumours of a leadership threat, stating his job is not on the line.

While visiting Shepparton on Thursday morning, Mr McCormack said his job was not under threat currently, and would not be after the election either — but admitted he did not know what the future held.

Tension over the National Party’s top job continued to grow last week, after the party’s former leader Barnaby Joyce sensationally claimed he remained ‘‘the elected deputy prime minister of Australia’’ and will feel no guilt in returning to lead the National Party if Michael McCormack is rolled.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists there will be ‘‘no change’’ to his leadership team, as Nationals MPs urged their old boss to pipe down.

Mr McCormack insisted his relationship with Mr Joyce was ‘‘good’’.

‘‘I’ve known Barnaby for many, many years we’ve worked alongside well together for the interests of rural and regional Australians,’’ he said.

In an extraordinary interview, Mr Joyce said he would not challenge Mr McCormack but would attempt to replace him in a leadership spill if one took place.

‘‘I am not going to call a spill, I am not looking for numbers,’’ he told ABC Radio National last 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, who was dumped from the leadership role last year, made the explosive remarks after demanding the Morrison Government bankroll a new coal-fired power station ahead of the election in May.

His staunch pro-coal stance puts him at odds with Mr McCormack, who declared he was merely ‘‘not against’’ coal projects if they stacked up financially.

Mr Joyce angrily rejected suggestions he was hurting the Coalition’s chances of re-election by calling for more coal, saying he was standing up for Nationals voters.

Mr Joyce is in the Goulburn Valley for two days this week in his role as drought envoy, accompanied by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.