Barnaby Joyce has announced he will resign as leader of the federal Nationals and deputy prime minister and step down from Malcom Turnbull’s frontbench.
Mr Joyce held a press conference in Armidale at 2pm on Friday following continued pressure in recent weeks, triggered by revelations of his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion, who is now his partner.
On Friday the media reported ‘bottom pinching allegations’, while the day before Victorian Nationals MP Andrew Broad had publically said Mr Joyce needed to step down and move to the back bench.
Mr Broad said he would be moving a motion challenging the leadership on Monday when the party met in Canberra.
Meeting with the media in Armidale Mr Joyce said it he would go to the back bench, but was ‘without a doubt’ staying as a member for the New England.
He said it was never about him but rather “about the person in the weatherboard, something that manifestly expressed what the National Party is about.”
“It's about the person in many places, their right to transcend through the economic and social stratification of life.”
“That is what this has always been. The incredible privilege that I'm so humbled by, to have been, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, someone who went to Woolbrook Public School.”
Mr Joyce also told the media that he has asked the latest allegations of bottom pinching be referred to the police for the right of the person who made the allegations and for his right of defence. He said he would not be commenting about it if it would be before the courts.
Parkes MP Mark Coulton supports McCormack
Parkes MP Mark Coulton has thrown his support behind Riverina MP Michael McCormack to be the next leader of the Nationals.
Mr Coulton said McCormack – the Veteran’s Affairs Minister and a former country journalist – was the man for the job.
“I have known Michael for a long time and I believe he’s the person we need at this point,” he said.
“He’s a very strong person and a hard worker … a very strong personality and well-regarded amongst colleagues but has also done a good job in various roles over the years.
The electorate comes first: Andrew Gee
Member for Calare Andrew Gee said on Friday morning he “won’t be able to back (Mr Joyce) but I’m also not in a position to back any challenger.”
In a statement to the media Mr Gee said the electorate came first.
“Our electorate comes first, and nobody has contacted me to tell me they’re challenging, what they’d do for the Calare electorate or how our key projects would be progressed.
“As things stand, all bets are off, I’m backing the electorate and not anyone else, and we’ll just have to see what next week brings.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thanks Barnaby for his service
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has released a statement following Mr Joyce’s announcement on Friday afternoon.
“I thank Barnaby for his service as Deputy Prime Minister and his various Ministerial roles in which he has been a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia.
Mr Turnbull said pending the National’s election of a new leader and consequent ministerial changes, MP John McVeigh will act as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
Earlier Mr Turnbull declined again to publically support Mr Joyce. Mr Turnbull spoke to reporters outside the front gates of the White House in Washington DC on Thursday and despite being on the other side of the world was unable to avoid questions about the National Party.
"These are matters for the leadership of the National Party," Mr Turnbull eventually answered.
"I've been a great pain to stress that I have not, nor has my party, sought to influence in any way the deliberations of the National party."
- with The Northern Daily Leader and Australian Associated Press