Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd with Small Business minister Michael McCormack speaking at Goondoon St.
Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd with Small Business minister Michael McCormack speaking at Goondoon St. Matt Harris

O'Dowd backs new deputy PM, eager to 'get on with the job'

A "GOOD listener" with country values has Ken O'Dowd's support in leading the National Party beyond the recent "distracting" scandals involving Barnaby Joyce.

The Member for Flynn said the Nationals' new leader Michael McCormack was an "excellent" fit.

But the ballot vote that confirmed his promotion did not come without a last minute twist.

It was expected to be a one-horse race after main opponent David Gillespie withdrew his contention on Sunday.

But at the last minute, controversial CQ backbencher MP George Christensen surprised everyone again by challenging Mr McCormack.

The Member for Dawson said his decision to throw his hat in the ring was not to become the Deputy Prime Minister, but to speak up for rural communities.

Mr O'Dowd said the move shocked National Party members, who woke up on Monday expecting no one to contest Mr McCormack's bid to replace Mr Joyce.

He said the last minute contention and Mr Christensen's calls for abolishing the coalition at the weekend showed he is on the "wrong track".

"I think most people were surprised (by the contention), I certainly was," he said.

Mr O'Dowd, who was interviewed on The Project last night about the leadership shake up, said the Minister for Veterans' Affairs would be an "excellent" Deputy Prime Minister.

He said the Member for Riverina was a good listener and was focused on "country issues" including dams, water and agriculture better than most.

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce's resignation has sent him to the backbench, one row in front of Mr O'Dowd in what he said is called the "cow corner".

But Mr O'Dowd has not lost faith in his friend's political future despite his recent controversy involving former staffer Vicki Campion.

"Barnaby is a valuable member of the backbench and he'll help Michael and the whole team out," Mr O'Dowd said.

"We thank him for his efforts and wish him well in the future.

"Who knows, he could return bigger and better."

Now Mr O'Dowd is keen to get back to business as usual.

"It's time to clear the air," he said.

"We were distracted, I thought we started the year off very well, that lasted about a week, then it became dysfunctional with all the hype around Barnaby (Joyce)."