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Defiant Barnaby Joyce: 'I'm not going anywhere'

Politics

Barnaby Joyce says he’s not going anywhere, blasting suggestions he should be ousted as Nationals leader as a “witch-hunt”.

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The deputy prime minister, who’s taken personal leave after his affair with a former staffer was made public, also played down a phone hook-up between Nationals officials on Monday afternoon.

“I am humbled by the support in my electorate and in the community,” he told Fairfax Media today.

“People are starting to see this as a witch hunt. I’m not going anywhere, I never would.”

Joyce said the phone hook-up was not an official meeting, reiterating the leader of the Nationals is decided by party MPs.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who will become acting prime minister on Wednesday when Malcolm Turnbull heads to the US, reiterated Joyce’s future is up to his colleagues.

But he said he was very confident Joyce and Turnbull will continue to do good work together, despite their sometimes “robust relationship”.

“Barnaby’s had a difficult week, there’s no two ways about it,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It’s important no doubt for him and his family, but it’s of course also important for the government, for us to get to the other side of this.”

Cormann left a voicemail message with the deputy prime minister in the last few days but said the pair haven’t had a chance to talk.

Joyce’s NSW Nationals colleague Michael McCormack, who’s been touted as a potential replacement, dodged multiple questions about the issue on Monday, refusing six times to explicitly back Joyce’s leadership.

“There is no challenge at the moment … he has the party’s support,” the minister told Sky News.

He also missed five opportunities to rule out a challenge at next Monday’s Nationals party room meeting in Canberra.

He later added: “Of course I support Barnaby Joyce, he’s our leader, he’s been a very good leader.”

A Newspoll published by The Australian on Monday found 65 per cent Australian voters believe Joyce should quit as Nationals leader and either go to the backbench or quit politics.

Queensland Nationals MP Llew O’Brien said while some people were concerned about the crisis engulfing Joyce, just as many, if not more, were supportive of him.

Asked if there was any chance Joyce would be rolled as leader, O’Brien told ABC radio, “Twenty-four hours is a long time in politics. I don’t think there is.”

The Wide Bay MP does not believe Joyce should step down and would not be drawn on who he would vote for in the event of a leadership spill.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday said he could not say if the deputy prime minister would survive as Nationals leader after his affair with ex-staffer and now pregnant partner Vikki Campion. 33.

News Corp reports friends of Joyce’s wife Natalie say she doesn’t want him to lose his job.

– AAP

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