Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack has failed to cut through - or even gain recognition - with voters.
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack has failed to cut through - or even gain recognition - with voters.

Don’t you know who this man is?

DEPUTY Prime Minister Michael McCormack has lost the confidence of the majority of Nationals, who are asking the embattled leader to resign or face a spill on the eve of the election.

Red-hot frustration is now building into a "political Sophie's Choice" for Nationals, who fear moving on Mr McCormack after the election will be too late, especially for Queensland MPs.

A number of MPs and senators who voted for Mr McCormack last year have now abandoned him for his predecessor Barnaby Joyce.

Some believe they cannot wait to roll Mr McCormack after the next election because too many seats are at risk or could be lost. Capricornia, Flynn and Dawson are all marginal.

The lacklustre performance of Mr McCormack and his inability to raise funds comes as the junior Coalition partner is preparing to lose party status in the Senate for the first time since Federation. Losing party status equates to a pay cut for some.

Streetscape in Queen St Mall.
Streetscape in Queen St Mall.

With NSW senator John Williams retiring at the May election, Nationals are not expecting to win the third spot on the ticket.

Senior figures are being leant on to encourage Mr McCormack to step aside for the good of the party.

It is understood Mr Joyce is not agitating and will not call a spill, however he will run against Mr McCormack if one is brought on.

Many in the party believe Mr Joyce as leader would help Nationals hold their seats.

Calls were being made last night to tally rusted-on numbers for Mr Joyce as a growing number of colleagues privately bemoun Mr McCormack's performance, his "non-existent profile" and the way he is being "walked-all over" by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Serious and meaningful conversations, driven by NSW and Queensland MPs, are being held about how the process would work so close to the Budget and the poll, and what it would mean for the Coalition Agreement.

Those advocating for change have been asked to map out on the timing of the coup and then an election-fight back strategy.

One highly-placed source revealed that rolling Mr McCormack would be a plan to help Nationals keep their seats, not a plan to win Government. It is a concession that the relationship between the Coalition partners is in tatters and government could be lost.

Those close to the issue concede the timing of changing leaders was bad but the Nationals needed a fighting chance to hold seats, especially in Queensland.

Last night several sources said a spill could not be ruled out or guaranteed, but believed momentum was building for change.

Mr McCormack would face a challenge by the end of May regardless, they said.

Mr McCormack started losing authority within his party room last year, with Queenslanders Senator Barry O'Sullivan and Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien refusing to turn up to party room meetings in Canberra.

The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday six Queensland Nationals broke ranks and wrote to Mr McCormack and Energy Minister Angus Taylor to demand the Government underwrite a coal-fired power station.

Last night MPs were citing Sportsbet odds, showing Nationals MPs were behind in Capricornia, Flynn and Dawson.

Some Nationals, like Victorian Andrew Broad, who was engulfed in the Sugar Babe scandal, are understood to feel as though they have been "thrown under the bus" by Mr McCormack.

And outgoing Senator O'Sullivan is believed to in part blame Mr McCormack for failing to help him at his preselection. Both supported Mr McCormack's leadership bid last year.

It comes as Nationals last night spoke of another potential indiscretion of an MP which could embarrass the party.

It did not relate to Mr Joyce, who stepped down in February after allegations by West Australian business woman Catherine Marriott that she was sexually harassed by Mr Joyce.

Mr Joyce's resignation was after of weeks of pressure when news broke of a pregnancy with his former staff member Vikki Campion. Ms Marriott's allegations have never been substantiated.

News Queensland asked Mr McCormack's office last night if the Deputy Prime Minister was aware that he had lost the support of his party room and were talks about removing him, and if he supported a new coal-fired power station in Queensland or NSW?

In a statement, Mr McCormack said: "I am working hard every day to deliver for regional Australians and I will continue to focus on the issues that are important to their way of life, like lowering power prices.

"Yes I support coal-fired energy generation. It still provides the majority of Australia's energy needs, especially baseload power.

"The Liberal and Nationals' Government has introduced legislation to force power prices down and we will continue to work with the parliament to see that legislation through.

"My colleagues in The Nationals are keen to see that outcome as well and that's what we are all focused on.

"Labor are backing higher prices by not supporting this legislation; they don't care if prices increase.

"They have no practical way of bringing down prices and maintaining a reliable energy supply for all Australians.

"This legislation is a test for Bill Shorten: Does he back lower power prices or not?"


Meanwhile, Michael McCormack’s predecessor Barnaby Joyce is waiting in the wings.
Meanwhile, Michael McCormack’s predecessor Barnaby Joyce is waiting in the wings.