Barnaby threatens Turnbull with leadership challenge
BARNABY Joyce allegedly threatened Malcolm Turnbull with a leadership challenge in a heated argument that caused the prime minister to "go into meltdown".
Sources reportedly told Sky News that Mr Joyce said: "I'm sure if we had the time, Tony (Abbott) and I could get the numbers".
The comments, which the media outlet said "could have been off the cuff", reportedly came on the same day Mr Turnbull called a now infamous media conference in which he announced a 'sex ban' between politicians and their staffers and asked Mr Joyce to reconsider his position.
But Mr Turnbull's office today "vehemently" denied the threat was made, The Australian reports. The spokesman told the newspaper hat Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce had dined together at parliament house on the Monday after Mr Joyce's resignation.
The once formidable partnership between the prime minister and his deputy gave way to mistrust on both sides after it was revealed Mr Joyce's former media adviser Vikki Campion was pregnant with his child. He has sensationally since cast doubt over the paternity of the child but said he would raise it as his own, regardless.
Earlier today, Tony Abbott challenged Mr Turnbull to explain why he should keep his job if the Coalition loses 30 Newspolls under his leadership.
The latest Newspoll in The Australian newspaper showed Mr Turnbull's Government has been behind Labor for 28 consecutive polls.
Mr Turnbull cited the Coalition's 30 consecutive poor results in opinion polls as among the reasons he toppled Tony Abbott in 2015.
"It was the prime minister who set this test and I guess if he fails the test it will be the prime minister who will have to explain why the test was right for one and not right for the other," Mr Abbott told 2GB radio on Monday.
"It will be up to him to tell us all why the test doesn't apply in his case."
The primary vote for both parties rose by a point - within the margin of error - taking the coalition to 37 per cent and Labor to 38 per cent. And Mr Turnbull is only narrowly clinging to his preferred prime minister status, dropping nine points in a month to 37 per cent.
Labor leader Bill Shorten is the preferred prime minister for 35 per cent of people polled.
A month ago, the prime minister was 14 points ahead of Mr Shorten. The poll was taken after Mr Joyce resigned the Nationals leadership after revelations about his affair with his former media adviser.
Parliament's febrile atmosphere with threats from ministers to further air rumours about others' private lives is likely to also have been fresh on potential voters' minds.
Returning Nationals minister Keith Pitt, who will be sworn back in to the frontbench on Monday, conceded it had been a messy start to the year but said his constituents weren't interested in the gossip and rumours. "I don't work on the set of Days of Our Lives. This a serious building where serious decisions are made and we continue to be focused on that," he told Sky News.
Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland said the government was too focused on attacking Mr Shorten.
"If they spent more time focusing on the Australian people ... they would see much better results," she told Sky News.
- With AAP