Dissenting voices within the local National Party Branch have called time on Barnaby Joyce, saying he should stand aside amidst fears the party won’t retain the New England seat at the next election.
New England electorate council chair, Russell Webb, said on Thursday there had been no talk among party members about Mr Joyce standing aside.
“To my knowledge, from where I sit, I’ve heard nothing to the contrary,” Mr Webb said.
“Many people may have had their own thoughts on everything that’s happened up to this point in time, but I can’t imagine anything other than running with what we’ve got at the moment.”
However branch members, who did not wish to be named for “fear of backlash”, told The Leader they thought it was time Mr Joyce stood aside.
“We will be lemmings over the cliff,” one party member said. “I think the only course of action left open to him is to resign.”
The local party members took umbrage with the local branch speaking “on behalf of members without actually consulting”.
“We’re not consulted, but we’re spoken for and there is this level of discontent and concern, genuine concern, for the future of the National Party in the New England electorate, that’s at the core of all this,” another member said.
“It’s not about friendships, this is about how we are seen nationally and what we get.”
Doubts surfaced about Mr Joyce’s future in New England earlier in the week and federal Nationals leader, Mr Joyce’s successor as Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack said it was a matter for the party in New England.
“That’ll be a matter for a branch to nominate him and then that’ll be a matter for the branch members in New England as to whether or not they decide if he nominates or if anybody else nominates,” Mr McCormack said.
It came after it was initially reported the he was set to take leave for up to 11 weeks.
Mr Joyce later refuted the claim on Twitter and said: “Contrary to reports, I’m taking leave until June 15 following a routine check up”.
“The medical certificate provided allowed for a month.”
The local National Party members who spoke out couldn’t be sure if their sentiments were largely shared within the branch.
“We think it’s a large sentiment within the electorate,” one said.
“We don’t know the numbers, because with branch politics people are too afraid to speak up.
“That’s the way branch politics work, you speak-up and you’re on the outer.”
There was talk of a no confidence motion within the branch eight weeks ago, which didn’t go ahead.
Unopposed, Mr Joyce was pre-selected as the Nationals candidate for New England in October last year ahead of the by-election triggered by his dual-citizenship.
He went on to win the December poll and bagged almost 65 per cent of the primary vote, amassing a 12 per cent swing on his result in the 2016 federal election.