Is Barnaby about to take back Nats leadership?

ON TUESDAY, the whole Nationals' leadership team could spill, meaning not only will the party have a new Deputy Leader but Australia could have a new Deputy Prime Minister.

For Scott Morrison the timing is unfortunate (on top of the fallout of his handling of the bushfires and the coronavirus) - he starts the Parliamentary year with a scandal, drama and 21 unsettled Coalition junior partners, who over the past two years could not organise a good time in a brothel with a fistful of $50 notes.

Plus Morrison now faces the proposition of a mini-reshuffle and the "dark horse" Barnaby Joyce returning to Cabinet, who Liberals desperately want to keep out of Cabinet - not because of past indiscretions but because he would make costly and potentially outrageous demands.

Joyce cannot be controlled, unlike the gentle man currently running the Nats. For Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, the risk always was that Bridget McKenzie's scalp could mean he too became collateral damage.

The Nationals leadership has been found wanting during the drought, the election campaign, the bushfires and this whole sorry scandal. Under McCormack's leadership they have been trampled on by the Liberals.

McKenzie's fate was sealed the moment the Auditor-General handed down his report into the sport funding scandal last month. As far back as late last year, some Nationals knew about the report and believed she would go.

It was the same old formula though - a Minister digs in thinking they can out last the scrutiny.

McKenzie needed to be blasted out - that's why Morrison referred the issue of her granting of funds to a gun club of which she was a member to his department secretary. If she had stepped down beforehand, the Prime Minister would never have needed to refer the issue to Phil Gaetjens.

Politically, Morrison could not skewer her on how grants were determined for two reasons: It would then raise questions about whether the money would need to be recalled; and, no government will ever give up ministerial discretion over funding.

But what now for the Nationals and the Government? One thing is for certain - no one is a clear frontrunner when the party room meets tomorrow and there is no guarantee McCormack is safe from a spill.

David Littleproud, Darren Chester and Joyce could all be in the running for leader or deputy. Matt Canavan will become of the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate. Tomorrow will be a wake-up call for some and potentially a political phoenix for Joyce.