Truss could step down early to make way for Joyce

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Nationals leader Warren Truss is preparing to step down earlier than he originally told his colleagues, paving the way for a swifter transition to his current deputy, the higher profile Barnaby Joyce.

"The leadership drums are beating louder suddenly," said one Nationals insider confirming word within the rural and regional Coalition partner, is that Mr Truss has relented and will bring forward his planned Easter resignation announcement to Thursday.

The long-foreshadowed changeover follows a protracted peri-retirement phase in which the resignation of the veteran leader has been an open secret, but the timing of his departure kept secret, infuriating leadership hopefuls and hobbling Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ability to settle his ministerial line-up for this crucial election year.

Tensions between Mr Truss and Mr Joyce, the heir-apparent, have been cited as the reason for the delay, with claims Mr Truss had been deliberately holding out, hoping the extra time would allow an alternative candidate to gain support sufficient to deny Mr Joyce his long-held ambition of leading the Nationals - a post which comes with the deputy prime ministership thrown in when in office.

Inside sources say widely reported suggestions that Riverina MP Michael McCormack was drawing level with Mr Joyce in the undeclared race for the leadership was a combination of wishful thinking and deliberate mischief-making, while another said it was merely an attempt to build on momentum "that isn't there".

Read more at the Brisbane Times