SENIOR New England National Party members have brushed off claims there are “more skeletons” in the closet of MP Barnaby Joyce, as he stands as the sole candidate for an upcoming pre-selection vote.
Reports surfaced on Wednesday morning suggesting Mr Joyce had lost the support of senior National Party members who refused to endorse his candidacy at next week’s pre-selection meeting.
The party’s New England electorate chair Russell Webb said Mr Joyce still had strong support among members and within the community.
Mr Webb dismissed the reports of more skeletons hiding in Mr Joyce’s closet.
“If there's more skeletons it would have come out by now,” he said.
“He’s been looked into up and down hill for the last 12 months.”
Mr Webb said no one had told him about members who were not willing to support Mr Joyce as the Nationals’ candidate for next year’s federal election.
“He’s the only candidate and there’s strong support within the New England and within the branches of the party,” he said.
Mr Joyce was at a mobile phone tower announcement in Walcha Road this morning and called for people to judge him by his record as an MP, not his personal life.
He hit out at people making off the record comments in response to Wednesday’s speculation about his future.
“I can only judge on a thing, there's one candidate, if people had a big problem with me there would be other candidates standing against me for pre-selection,” he told Fairfax Media
“That didn't happen and I can think of the branches that moved motions of endorsement.
“I think they’re smart enough to see the difference between a person's commitment to the electorate and their personal life.
However, he seemingly took a shot at the NSW Nationals head office in his response.
“If someone in Sydney has got a problem with me, that's a problem for them, not a problem for me,” Mr Joyce said.
“It's so easy to throw rubbish around isn't it.
“It's so easy for an anonymous person to stand in the background and throw garbage.
“They can answer for themselves, if they're brave enough to talk off the record maybe they're brave enough to come on and tell us what they are.”
EARLIER: THERE is unrest within The National Party as its New England branch prepares for its pre-selection meeting next week.
New England Nationals members were expected to meet in Uralla on November 17 for its federal pre-selection meeting.
Incumbent Barnaby Joyce was expected to be pre-selected, but Sky News has reported some members were refusing to endorse his candidacy, fearing he could have "more skeletons in the closet".
New England electorate council chair Russell Webb said nominations for the Nats’ candidacy had closed and was unaware of any other nominees.
Earlier in the year, National Party members in Tamworth called for Barnaby to stand aside amid fears the party won’t retain the New England seat at the next election.
Barnaby Joyce was contacted for comment.
He will hold a press conference at Walcha Road this morning.
Meanwhile, federal National Party leader Michael McCormack told media: “The NSW Nationals manage the vetting and all the usual processes which go along with any candidacy, as they have done for my own pre-selection.”
“The grassroots members of The Nationals get to pick our candidates and that’s what’s happening here.”