CANBERRA, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The National Party of Australia's leadership crisis has escalated with the party disagreeing with the government on energy policy.
According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack is facing a revolt from within his own party, with his predecessor Barnaby Joyce the most likely man to replace him, over government funding of coal-fired power station.
The Nationals are the smaller part of the Coalition, a center-right alliance between the party and the Liberal Party of Australia. At times that the Coalition is in power as it has been since 2013, the leader of Nationals serves as deputy prime minister.
However, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday rejected a push by Nationals Members of Parliament (MPs) for the government to fund new coal-fired power plants in Queensland, Joyce warned that the Coalition agreement could be terminated.
"It is misleading to tell people that we are bound by covenant to always be together," he told News Corp Australia on Tuesday.
"The only thing we are bound by is that we must represent our people to the best of our abilities," he said.
Joyce, who resigned as leader of the Nationals in 2018 amid sexual assault allegations and revelations that he had an affair with a member of his staff, has confirmed that he will contend for leadership of the party if a ballot is called, saying he was the deputy prime minister at the time of the 2016 general election.
"If there was a spill and the position's vacant, I am the elected deputy prime minister of Australia, so I'd have no, any guilt at all in standing," he told ABC radio on Monday.
Responding to Joyce, McCormack said that he understands that when you have a marriage that it's a two-way relationship.
"You don't always get what you want but you have to work together to build better outcomes for your family, he told reporters on Monday.
The comments have been interpreted as a swipe at Joyce, whose marriage broke down in 2018 following the revelations of his affair, who said he was "a bit" hurt that McCormack had brought up "personal issues".
With Parliament currently adjourned, any challenge to McCormack's leadership would have to wait until it resumes in the first week of April, which will also be the last sitting week before May's general election.
Addressing the speculation about McCormack's position and the push for new coal-fired power plants, Morrison said that any such project would not be supported by the Queensland state government regardless of federal support.
"I'm focused on things that we can actually do to keep the pressure down on power prices and ensure that we deliver the reliable and sustainable and renewable energy for the future," he told reporters on Monday.
"What actually can happen is the investments that we're making in renewable projects and reliable projects," Morrison said.
"We have a fantastic leader of the National Party and the deputy prime minister in Michael McCormack and there'll be no change to that," he said.