Nats deputy leader denies succession plan

David Littleproud (left) has denied striking a deal to succeed Barnaby Joyce in the future.
David Littleproud (left) has denied striking a deal to succeed Barnaby Joyce in the future.

Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud has denied striking a secret succession plan deal to replace Barnaby Joyce in the future.

Mr Joyce narrowly won back the leadership earlier in the week, defeating Michael McCormack in a ballot of the 21-member party room.

Mr Littleproud, long touted as leadership material, scotched reports a succession plan was central to Mr Joyce's strategy.

"There is no secret deal," the agriculture minister told the ABC on Wednesday.

"This is nonsense and I don't intend to engage it. I've made public comments about what my position was, and I think my record lives up to that."

Mr Littleproud declared no one was owed the leadership of the party, making a deal impossible.

There is speculation Mr Littleproud would have contested the leadership ballot if Mr McCormack stood aside.

Instead, he retained his deputy leadership unchallenged.

"It was a traumatic day but democracy has made its call. Now we have to just get on with the job and win the next election under Barnaby," Mr Littleproud told the Nine Network.

Mr Joyce quit as deputy prime minister in February 2018 after strongly denying sexual harassment allegations.

He also came under fire for his affair with a staffer who is now his partner, and mother of his two sons.

Since returning to the role, Mr Joyce has faced sustained questions about his impact on women voters.

"I acknowledge that in a whole range of areas there are people who may dislike me and there are people who like me. That's part of politics," he told parliament.

"I'm sure there are blokes who dislike me as well and that is part of life."

He said he had tried to learn from his mistakes.

Former deputy prime minister John Anderson said Mr Joyce was a devastatingly effective politician when he was on his game.

"He says he has learned a great deal over the last three years, he should be given the benefit of the doubt and opportunity to demonstrate that," he told Sky News.

Mr Joyce is weighing up the Nationals' ministerial roles with Bridget McKenzie expected to return to cabinet at the expense of fellow Victorian Darren Chester.

The deputy prime minister took over his predecessor's roles in infrastructure, transport and regional development.

Australian Associated Press