COLLEAGUES: Barnaby Joyce (right) and Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd in 2016.
COLLEAGUES: Barnaby Joyce (right) and Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd in 2016. Contributed

'The ball is in Barnaby's court': Ken O'Dowd

FLYNN MP Ken O'Dowd has come just short of publicly calling for National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to resign.

As speculation swirled yesterday that Mr Joyce could face a challenge from Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael McCormack, Mr O'Dowd told The Observer it was up to Mr Joyce to put an end to the situation.

"It's got to be resolved, we can't keep going on like this," Mr O'Dowd said.

"There's three things that can happen.

"It can continue the way it's going, which is no good.

"He might consider standing down from leader, going back to sitting in the National Party room. Or he can resign, or whatever.

"I think the ball is in Barnaby's court, he can make the decision."

Mr O'Dowd said Mr McCormack, who like him had been in parliament since 2010, was "very statesmanlike" and was doing a good job as a Minister.

"I'm sure if the opportunity arises he'd make a very good leader in his own right," he said.

"(That opportunity) could happen, it will depend on the next few days."


STOMP OUT FIRE ANTS: Federal Member for Flynn - Ken O'Dowd and Federal Minister for Agriculture - Barnaby Joyce. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer
OLD STOMPING GROUND: Barnaby Joyce dealing with fire ants in Ken O'Dowd's electorate of Flynn during happier times. Mike Richards GLA200514POLI

Time in the spotlight

Mr O'Dowd found himself the unlikely face of a potential leadership push last week after he told 4CC breakfast host Michael J Bailey the controversy surrounding Mr Joyce's affair with a former staffer was "embarrassing" and he would consider putting his own hand up if the position became available.

He later stepped back from those comments, describing the suggestion as part of a "light-hearted chat" with a host he'd known for years.

Mr O'Dowd said the interview had resulted in him having a "busy week" but made it clear he wouldn't be in the running if the leadership was vacated.

"There's 21 of us in the National party room," he said.

"I'm probably older and more experienced than a lot of them... but speaking about Michael (McCormack), I'd be backing him against myself."



A 'week to cool off'

Any challenge to Mr Joyce would be likely to occur at the next National party room meeting, scheduled for Monday next week.

Mr O'Dowd said the delay might even turn out to be a good thing for the Coalition, given a recent exchange of harshly-worded statements between Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"We might need this week to cool off, especially Barnaby and Malcolm," he said.

"I think the Prime Minister threw a curveball and no one saw it coming... I think it could have been said a bit better behind closed doors and Barnaby could have made his response behind closed doors.

"This has just thrown a big spanner in the works. We've damaged ourselves with this."

Mr O'Dowd acknowledged the affair and its fallout had also set back Queensland's Nationals-aligned LNP politicians' plans to differentiate their branding from their Liberal Party-aligned colleagues, an idea floated in the wake of the conservative party's recent state election loss.

"We've got a lot of catching up to do before we can get back to where we thought we were," he said.

"This has never happened in the National Party before - we've generally had long-standing leaders and when they're ready they stand down."