Australian Deputy PM facing leadership turmoil

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister (PM) is set to face a leadership challenge as leadership turmoil engulfs the nation's government for the second time in as many months.

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File photo: AP

The position of Michael McCormack, deputy leader of the governing Liberal-National Party Coalition (LNP), has come under threat with his colleagues in the National Party of Australia reportedly preparing to depose him as leader of the party.

Under the LNP agreement, which cements the alliance between the Liberal Party of Australia and National Party of Australia, the leader of the Nationals serves as the LNP's deputy leader and as deputy PM when the party forms government.

Barnaby Joyce, who served as Deputy PM between December 2017 and February 2018, has emerged as the most likely candidate to lead a challenge against McCormack.

The turmoil comes just months after former PM Malcolm Turnbull was deposed as leader of the Liberal Party and Scott Morrison chosen as his leader.

McCormack on Thursday dismissed reports of malcontent within his party, saying that Joyce had told him he had no intention of challenging for the leadership.

"The fact is I have the majority support in the National party and the fact is I have to say not one National party member has come to me and said they're dissatisfied with anything," he told Sky News Australia.

Joyce has denied that he is canvassing whether he has the support to successfully challenge for the leadership but did say that "if it was offered to me I would take it".

Michelle Landry, a National Member of Parliament (MP) from Queensland, said she was "sure" Joyce would one day lead the party again.

"I'm sure at some stage in his career Barnaby will be leader again but Michael is our leader now, he has the support of the party room," she told Sky News.

The uncertainty comes at a time where the government is trying to project stability in the wake of Turnbull's downfall ahead of Saturday's crucial Wentworth by-election where a loss would represent the LNP losing its majority in the House of Representatives.

Asked about a potential challenge to McCormack, Morrison said that it was a matter for Nationals MPs.

"What I do know is that the coalition between the Nationals and the Liberals has never been stronger," he told reporters.