RIVERINA MP Michael McCormack has been tipped as a front-runner to become Australia’s next Deputy Prime Minister – if Barnaby Joyce falls on his sword.
Speculation has mounted that the Small Business Minister could potentially seize the reigns as leader of the National Party as the Coalition falls into chaos.
Mr Joyce has stood firm and vowed not to stand aside; but his fate rests with a citizenship inquiry in the High Court.
One Liberal minister described Mr McCormack as the most “professional” and “knowledged” candidate to take the top job – should Mr Joyce be forced to resign.
“I think he’s got the aspiration and the skill set to make it happen,” the MP said.
“In the unfortunate circumstance that Barnaby has to stand aside, I think McCormack would be the top horse.
“He was in the mix for Deputy Nationals leader in 2016, but was edged out by Fiona Nash who is in the Senate.”
Weighing in on the citizenship furore, outspoken former Liberal senator and Junee resident Bill Heffernan said parties may need to consider a new “candidate review process”.
“I introduced a candidate review process to the Liberal Party where nominations for any particular role in parliament are not released until they pass it,” he said.
“Part of the intrusive process assesses citizenship.”
When asked about the prospect of the Riverina MP leading the Nationals, Mr Heffernan hinted there were “a few people happy to fill the role”.
CSU political expert Troy Whitford said it was too early to speculate if the current Deputy Prime Minister will be stood down, but a McCormack shoo-in was “likely” if so.
“It’s likely, but we have to wait and see what the High Court says about Barnaby,” he said.
“He’s a strong chance, but it depends how much the party room like him.”
While Mr McCormack could not be reached for comment, he did not deny having leadership ambitions when asked in 2016.
“There are only 12 portraits of National Party leaders hanging in the party room. I'm sure all 21 members of the National Party would like to be up there among them,” he had told Fairfax Media.