Barnaby Joyce could return as Nationals leader in new-look party room, says MP Michelle Landry

“To be very frank, I disagree with our leader on [his] comments this week. They’re nothing like us, they’re not our friends, they’re our competitors,” he said during an interview in his Bundaberg office on Thursday.

“I don’t think that they act in the interests of the nation. I certainly don’t support their policies, and I’ll do my utmost to ensure they will never be in government in this country.”

Keith Pitt disagreed with leader Michael McCormack that One Nation’s interests closely aligned with his party.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Asked why he is preferencing One Nation above Labor in his own seat, Mr Pitt said “a lot of that is about our supporters and membership” who believe the party’s biggest threat comes from Labor and the Greens.

“In the game of politics it’s about winning government to be able to implement your policy and platform, and you can’t do it from opposition,” he said.

Mr Pitt flatly rejected the prospect of Mr Joyce returning to the leadership. However, when asked about that issue, Ms Landry noted the Nationals party room would look very different after the election following several retirements.

“That’s up to the party room and the party room will be totally different this time around. We had a lot of people resigning and hopefully a lot of new ones coming in,” she said.

“After the election, all the positions become vacant and go up again. It really is up to the party room. They’ll decide how they think the leader has performed.”

Ms Landry later clarified post-election leadership ballots were formalities and she expected the party’s present leaders to be “confirmed”. Mr McCormack and Prime Minister Scott Morrison were doing “a great job,” she said.

The two-term MP holds the federation seat of Capricornia by a margin of just 0.6 per cent. For most of its history it has been Labor territory, and Labor is hoping to seize it back with coal miner candidate Russell Robertson.

But minor parties remain popular in the region. Ms Landry caused a fleeting crisis last week when she told her local newspaper she would preference far-right senator Fraser Anning’s candidate above Labor and the Greens on her how-to-vote cards. She quickly recanted.

“It was a throwaway line on the spur of the moment,” Ms Landry says now. “On reflection I thought ‘no, Fraser Anning can be last’.” She says it was not an order from party leaders: “I made that decision myself because I don’t agree with a lot of the things he does and says.”

Ms Landry conceded directing preferences to One Nation above Labor and the Greens could play into Senate results and return the party’s former senator Malcolm Roberts to the upper house, but said it was “above my pay grade”.

Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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