Nationals leader Michael McCormack has declared himself a “fighter” as he urged his divided party not to become a destabilised rabble.
After a day of drama that began with Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester collapsing on the floor of Parliament and being rushed to hospital, Mr McCormack also admitted it was entirely possible he could face a second leadership spill.
“Time will tell,” Mr McCormack said in an interview with Channel Nine on Wednesday.
“You haven’t seen just how much of a fighter I am. I’m determined to continue to do the job that I have done for two years.
“I’ve got the support of the majority of my party.
“I would like to think that my party – my entire party – would rally behind not me but the cause that I espouse, the cause the National Party has stood up for 100 years.
“I was sent here to do a job. I wasn’t sent here to lead a rabble, a destabilised rabble.”
Leaks have emerged from the Nationals in recent days in what appears to be a concerted attempt to undermine Mr McCormack.
The Courier-Mail reported on Wednesday that Mr McCormack’s office had told MPs they could claim taxpayer funding for attending a $550-a-head party fundraiser in Melbourne to mark the party’s 100th anniversary.
In a backflip, Mr McCormack said that would no longer occur, despite the emails from staff in his office.
“Taxpayers won’t be funding the arrangement because I’ve made clear that members, if they want to attend, should pay for themselves," he said.
“The Prime Minister hasn’t said to me, ‘Michael, this needs to happen’, or, ‘Michael, that needs to happen’ – at the end of the day it's a National Party gathering.’’
Earlier, Nationals frontbencher Mark Coulton said regional voters “couldn’t give a rat’s toenail about the soap opera that’s being portrayed at the moment”.
“I didn't go into politics to be part of a soap opera,” he told the ABC.
Mr McCormack insisted the Prime Minister Scott Morrison supported him, despite reports he was “fed up” with the Nationals drama.
“If we have our discussions or our differences, we have them behind closed doors – the public doesn't need to know that. That shouldn't be grist for the media mill,” Mr McCormack said.
“We were as one.
“I said to him, ‘Prime Minister, I want you to focus on the …’ and I was just about to finish the sentence and he said ‘drought’.”