Barnaby Joyce demands better deal for Nationals in Coalition

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has called for a major overhaul in the Coalition arrangement with the Liberals, again undermining his successor Michael McCormack ahead of a new parliamentary year.

Mr Joyce, who said he does not want to return to the top job, said the junior Coalition party was being short-changed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison around the cabinet table.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The former deputy prime minister also fired a warning shot over climate change, saying the Nationals will not accept a 2050 net zero emissions target.

“We need a fairer deal from the marriage,” Mr Joyce told Sky News Australia on Wednesday evening.

“We have been doing it the polite way … we’ve been doing it behind closed doors. We’ve been doing all the things they tell us to do but it’s just not working it.

“There is a problem, the problem needs fixing, it is in how the relationship works and for there to be a Coalition it has to be in form, it has to be in substance like it was in the past.”

Mr Joyce is among a group of backbench Nationals MPs who have picked a fresh climate change fight within the federal Coalition, releasing a manufacturing plan underpinned by new coal-fired power stations.

Almost 12 months since he was defeated in a party room ballot after calling a leadership spill, Mr Joyce said the Nationals need to demand more from the Liberals.

Asked about Mr Joyce’s opinion piece about the Coalition in The Australian earlier in the day, Mr McCormack said the partnership was a “marriage of strengths”.

“And we work well together … and right across the nation Liberals and Nationals are working together to build a better Australia.” Mr McCormack told reporters.

“The people out in the regions are relying on us for their jobs, for their futures, for water infrastructure, for road and rail. And that’s what my focus is on. They’re not worried about the power struggles in Canberra.

“They’re not worried about who might sit on a committee or what percentage of this and that is made up of the government. That hasn’t even been raised with me before today.”

But Mr Joyce said the party did not have control any of the major portfolios, such as treasury, finance, trade, social services, defence or education, and should be asking for more power and influence at the table.

He said the vast majority of government spending was administered by the Liberals with even the big-spending infrastructure portfolio, held by Mr McCormack, also shared with Liberal MP Paul Fletcher.

“The Liberal Party is not going to govern without the National Party. Simple as that,” he said.

“You’re not going to have National Party votes if you don’t have National Party seats and you won’t have National Party seats unless we get a substantive change in how this works.”

Mr Joyce said as the longest-serving MP in the party room he was entitled to speak his mind and he was not touting for the leadership.

“I am going to make sure I’m still standing up for my party,” he said.

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