‘That is rubbish’: Barnaby's blow-up on Sunrise
Barnaby Joyce blew up on Sunrise this morning as he defended the Nationals from accusations they had done too little to help drought-affected Australians.
But while sticking up for his party, Mr Joyce repeatedly sidestepped questions about Michael McCormack's leadership.
"Is Michael McCormack a good leader here? Country people are starting to feel let down that the Nats are not behind them here, that the money for the drought stimulus is taking too long to roll out. The Nats aren't defending country people. What is going on?" host Samantha Armytage asked.
"Well I see the pressure of the drought every day. I mean, I'm living there. And you can see it behind me, imagine waking up and seeing that," said Mr Joyce.
He was speaking from Armidale, New South Wales, with a grim backdrop of fog and bushfire smoke behind him.
"Yeah but where is Michael McCormack, why is he not doing more?" Armytage pressed.
"Well he has to do the best job he can, and he works within the confines of government with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and the Cabinet," Mr Joyce said.
"And of course, within the National Party, you've got to drive a deal. And I'm sure that Michael, with the changes to Farm Household Allowance, and Bridget McKenzie are doing precisely that, and making sure that the infrastructure that will stimulate the economy, such as the inland rail, such as Dungowan damn, that we get these economies going."
Under the Farm Household Allowance, farmers get access to income support in four out of every 10 years. Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced that instead of simply being cut off after the fourth year, those farmers would receive a lump-sum payment of $13,000 for couples or $7500 for singles.
That is the change Mr Joyce mentioned.
But there is still frustration within the National Party, with backbench MPs pushing the government to do more.
Last week they leaked a 10-point plan to further address the drought, which would cost an extra $1.3 billion. That plan had yet to be considered by Cabinet.
Back to the Sunrise interview. Armytage's co-host Natalie Barr jumped in, trying to get Mr Joyce to address his party's internal tensions.
"But Barnaby, are there leadership rumblings, is the question. Are there leadership rumblings between the leader and the deputy leadership? Are people angry about your leadership in the Nationals?" she asked.
"Well it's not my leadership, but I think the main thing that people understand -" Mr Joyce began.
"But are the rank and file angry? Do they want a change of leadership in the Nationals?" Barr interjected.
"We are reflecting the pressures that are coming on us. From the dairy industry, from the drought, from people who are struggling, we understand that. And of course what we reflect in our commentary is that pressure that we have to deal with," he responded.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has been piling immense pressure on the government to intervene in the dairy industry.
During the most recent parliamentary sitting, she passed a motion in the Senate, against the government's will, to set up an inquiry into the sector's performance since it was deregulated in the early 2000s.
That inquiry will consider tasking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with regulating a base price for milk.
"Pauline Hanson's the only one sticking up for the dairy industry. Where are the Nats? Why are you not fighting with Scott Morrison every day?" Armytage asked, sparking a blow-up from Mr Joyce.
"Oh come off it. That is rubbish. That is rubbish. That is rubbish," he said.
"We developed the dairy code, we developed the sugar code, we came in with the drought package. We're actually doing it, because we've got the guts to sit in Cabinet and fight for it. We don't sit at the coffee shop and scream and yell like a carnival barker, we actually get to the place where we make things happen."
"So Nationals MPs are happy with the leadership?" Barr asked, but Mr Joyce wasn't quite finished yet.
"We don't have to drive from Ipswich out to the country, we live there. There it is, right behind us! It's just over there!" he said.
"And National MPs are happy with the Nationals' leadership?" she pushed.
"We are making sure that we drive the agenda, yes, because we just want to focus on the people. We want to make sure that their outcome is our job, that's what we're doing," said Mr Joyce.
Mr McCormack took over as Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals after Mr Joyce stood down amid the fallout from his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion.
Late last year there was speculation Mr Joyce would try to take back the job - and he didn't exactly slap down the rumours.
While he stressed he was "not touting" for the leadership, Mr Joyce said he would accept the job if his colleagues offered it to him.
"If responsibility is offered to you, you accept it. It's faux modesty to say, 'Oh no, I'll put that aside, because I want to live a quiet life.' You go as hard as you can, and when you're sick of going as hard as you can, you get out."
The speculation eventually died down, but Mr Joyce did continue to go hard.
Before his vocal involvement in drought policy this month, he led the opposition to a bill decriminalising abortion in New South Wales.
Mr Joyce might not have the most powerful voice in the Nationals' party room anymore, but it is still the loudest.