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McCormack digs in as challenge to his leadership becomes question of when


Under siege Nationals leader Michael McCormack is staring down threats to his leadership, as MPs prepared to meet in Canberra.

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The deputy prime minister spent the weekend rejecting reports former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was preparing to call a spill.

Any challenger would need to secure at least 11 votes from the 21-strong team of Nationals sitting in the federal parliament.

A challenge could be set in motion as early as Monday when the coalition government partner gathers its MPs for a party room meeting.

But Joyce told Seven Sunrise “there is no prospect of a spill at this point in time”.

At issue is McCormack’s perceived weakness on climate policy amid heightened concern amongst some Nationals MPs that Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison could tighten his current commitment.

Morrison has stated a target of net-zero emissions “as soon as possible” and “preferably” by 2050, ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

McCormack told The Australian Financial Review rebel MPs would have to “blow me out” because he won’t be standing aside.

“I will absolutely run,” he said in a report published on Monday.

“I’m not a quitter, they’ll have to blow me out.”

McCormack made similar comments to The Australian and Nine newspapers.

“People aren’t dissatisfied with what I’m doing as deputy prime minister, they want my job,” he told Nine.

“If they do bring on a spill and lose they should be thinking of their own futures,” he told The Australian.

Asked if McCormack was doing a good job, Joyce said “I think he is doing the best job he can”.

“He is a good bloke and has been working as hard as he can.

“The issue is the next election and this is for the National Party, and the coalition in general – it’s going to be one in three places, the Hunter Valley … Central Queensland and in and around Darwin.

“We’ve got to make sure … that we are clearly identifiable in our policy structure in such a way that we can win it not just for the Nationals but for the coalition.”

Joyce’s last attempt to roll McCormack in February 2020 ended in failure.

But it did result in Agriculture Minster David Littleproud – who’s is seen as a future leader – becoming the Nationals deputy leader.

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