It is understood Nationals deputy leader Barnaby Joyce encouraged Macfarlane – whose Queensland seat of Groom is in one of the country’s richest agricultural regions – to come across from the Liberals.
Macfarlane was dumped from the ministry when Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott in September.
Nationals leader Warren Truss told reporters he had private discussions with Macfarlane after the MP was dropped from the frontbench.
“But that’s exactly what you’d expect – friends talk to one another,” Truss said on Thursday.
“When I have private discussions with my friends I don’t make any comments about what may have happened in those discussions.”
Truss said he had “high respect” for Macfarlane.
“But what he wants to do for the future is entirely up to him,” he said.
Labor senators joked about the defection.
“Ian Macfarlane joined the National Party? You’ll take anyone,” Sam Dastyari told parliament.
“You’ll have (Greens leader) Richard Di Natale next,” said Labor colleague Stephen Conroy.
Macfarlane’s move would take the Nationals’ numbers in parliament to 22.
Local News Matters
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