IT'S ON: Hinkler MP Keith Pitt, inset left, and Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien, inset right, have spoken out about embattled Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce as a challenge looms for the Nationals leadership.
IT'S ON: Hinkler MP Keith Pitt, inset left, and Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien, inset right, have spoken out about embattled Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce as a challenge looms for the Nationals leadership. MICK TSIKAS

Hinkler, Wide Bay MPs weigh in on leadership

AS BARNABY Joyce faces a leadership challenge, the region's federal MPs have taken different approaches to the scandal engulfing the embattled Nationals leader.

Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien says Mr Joyce is the right man for the job.

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt has refused to speculate on his future as Nationals Party Leader.

It comes after Nationals MP Andrew Broad called for Mr Joyce to resign as party leader and go to the backbench yesterday afternoon.

Mr Broad said he had a resolution from his Nationals branch calling on Mr Joyce to resign and he would take those views to a party room meeting in Canberra on Monday.

He said he didn't want the job himself but someone other than him should lead.

Mr Joyce has been in the spotlight following revelations of his affair with his former adviser and now pregnant lover Vikki Campion and allegations he created a number of high-paying jobs for her.

When asked if he supported Mr Joyce in the leadership challenge, Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said he wouldn't be pre-empting discussions which may or may not occur on Monday.

"Deliberations over any matter in the Nationals party room are confidential and should remain confidential," Mr Pitt said.

Mr Pitt said his priority was working for his constituents "on announcements and policy, like the cashless debit card, which I've been working tirelessly on to help the vulnerable children in our community."

Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien has thrown his support behind Mr Joyce through the scandal, saying he was the "best bloke for the job."

"As it stands today Barnaby has my full support," he said.

"I think Barnaby is a good man who is going through a rough time ... I understand the Prime Minister wants to lift the standards but once you start talking about another man's family, you need to tread warily."

This is despite allegations Mr Joyce and Ms Campion were together on a Bruce Hwy inspection trip earlier this year, stopping in Gympie along the way.

On January 2, Mr Joyce posted storm images on Facebook from Gladstone, saying he had been checking out the Bruce Highway from Cairns to Gladstone.

The next day he was dropped off by an unknown person outside Gympie where he inspected a further section of the highway with Mr O'Brien.

It is unclear if Ms Campion was travelling with him at this time.

"I woke up in Gladstone this morning and was Googling the news, when I saw (on The Gympie Times website) that Mr O'Brien was expecting me. So I said to the boss: 'Looks like we're going to Gympie'." Mr Joyce said.

Mr Joyce's spokesman said the reference to "boss" related to his chief of staff, not 32-year-old "Miss Campion".

The spokesman said Mr Joyce, 50, made no accommodation expense claim until January 3 and no travel claim was made for Ms Campion.

But the spokesman repeatedly refused to provide answers to questions about car expenses during the period.

Mr O'Brien told ABC's 7.30 Report, in his experience people wanted Mr Joyce to stay.

"I'm getting the sense that voters are a bit sick of the story that it's almost looking like a campaign to unseat Barnaby," he said.

"There are people with strong views and some of them believe that he should go. I think that's obvious. But predominantly, the people want him to stay."

Both of the region's MPs also backed controversial legislation introduced by the Prime Minister which banned sexual relations with staff.

Mr Pitt said he didn't need a piece of paper to tell him the difference between right and wrong but he supported the Prime Minister's "standards".

Yesterday's challenge marks the first time a Nationals MP has publicly turned on a Deputy Prime Minister.

Nationals WA leader Mia Davies said she contacted Mr Joyce to tell him he was causing "ongoing damage" to the party and his position as Federal Leader was "no longer tenable" on Tuesday.

"Mr Joyce's actions have caused pain for his family but it is the ongoing damage he is causing The Nationals organisation that is of greatest concern to me as WA Leader," Ms Davies said.

"The Nationals brand across Western Australia has suffered as a result of Mr Joyce's actions and he has become a distraction at both a Federal and State level.

"It is the view of the Parliamentary National Party of Western Australia that Mr Joyce's position as a Federal Leader is no longer tenable."

Mr Joyce fired back in a statement to Sky News that same day.

"I acknowledge your concerns, however it should also be said that you don't have a Federal member of Parliament in the National Party of Australia, your last member spending time almost exclusively as an independent and only once or twice coming to the National Party room meetings.

"I also note, you are not in a Coalition in Western Australia and the WA Nats pride themselves on their ferocious independence.

"Therefore I find it surprising that a federal issue has so much momentum in the West when people in the east in the National Party have in the majority a different view - and to be quite frank, vastly more skin in the game."

Mr Joyce is currently on leave while Mathias Cormann has taken on his top job as Acting Prime Minister in Malcolm Turnbull's absence.



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