McCormack triumphs over Barnaby Joyce in Nationals leadership spill

Michael McCormack has survived a challenge from Barnaby Joyce this morning to hang on to the Nationals leadership.

David Littleproud becomes deputy leader.

The 21-member Nationals party room met from 9am till 9.40am, with Mr McCormack and Mr Joyce each leaving the room while the other spoke. The parliamentarians were told to leave their phones at the door.

Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, who has survived a challenge from Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, who has survived a challenge from Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The attempted coup was sparked by the resignation of party deputy leader Bridget McKenzie over the sports grants affair, with disgruntled parliamentarians taking the opportunity to move against Mr McCormack.

Mr Joyce makes no secret of his ambition to return to the leadership after he was force to resign two years ago under pressure over an affair with his staffer - and has said before if the position becomes vacant he will stand.

But Mr McCormack said it was time to draw a line in the sand. He said he had been endorsed as leader when Mr Joyce resigned two years ago, again after the 2018 election and again on Tuesday.

"That's three times in less than three two years. I think that's enough to warrant me leading the party going forward," he said.

He had shook Mr Joyce's hand, would continue to work with him and did not expect him to challenge again, he said.

As for Matt Canavan, who gave sudden wind to Mr Joyce's sails on Monday night when he resigned from his ministerial role to back him, Mr McCormack signalled he would remain on the backbench.

"He has resigned his commission as resources minister. I wish him all the best," Mr McCormack said.

This story McCormack survives Joyce challenge in Nationals leadership spill first appeared on The Canberra Times.