Senior Nationals MP Darren Chester says it would be “mind-numbingly stupid” to roll Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack before the next election.
Mr Chester predicts the government will be punished at Saturday’s Wentworth by-election for dumping Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.
“I don’t know why anyone would think we should change leaders once you see what’s happening in Wentworth right now,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“I think it would be mind-numbingly stupid for the Nationals to change leader before the election. Our party has a tradition of loyalty and trust.”
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has made it clear he has ambitions to lead again but says he would only take the job if it was offered to him.
His comments come with Mr McCormack under pressure from some Nationals who describe the deputy prime minister as “ineffective” and believe he’s unwilling to stand up to the Liberal party.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison – who ascended to his job in a Liberal leadership spill two months ago – also tried to pour cold water on the Nationals leadership chatter.
“That’s just the Canberra bubble going on like it always does,” Mr Morrison told the Seven Network.
Mr Chester, the minister for defence personnel, said a “special kind of madness” descended on Parliament House when unnamed sources started talking up leadership spills.
He said journalists were doing the “dirty work” of internal agitators by not putting names to their quotes.
“I’ve been talking to my colleagues all week. No one is counting numbers for anyone other than Michael McCormack,” Mr Chester said.
There has been speculation Mr Joyce’s supporters could try to topple him within days, but the deputy prime minister will not be stepping down.
“The fact is I have the majority support in the National Party,” Mr McCormack told reporters on Thursday.
“Not one National Party member has come to me and said they’re dissatisfied with anything.”
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan agrees with his boss, saying nobody has spoken with him about changing leaders either.
“There’s absolutely no sentiment for this; we’ve got enough to do for regional .”
Frontbencher Michelle Landry offered a similar line.
“We know that Barnaby Joyce is very ambitious and would want to go back in that role again but now is certainly Michael’s time – he’s doing a great job,” she told the ABC.
Mr McCormack has led the federal party since February when Mr Joyce resigned after an affair with a former staffer who gave birth earlier this year.
Mr Joyce has confirmed he wants to be Nationals leader again but says he’s not actively pursuing it.