Is Barnaby Joyce planning to quit?
NATIONALS are preparing for dangerous election overkill in Barnaby Joyce's seat of New England amid speculation the former Deputy Prime Minister might quit.
If Mr Joyce does step down the New England voters would have the prospect of an election a year, for four years in a row.
They would include the 2016 double dissolution election, the October 2017 by-election caused by Mr Joyce's dual citizenship, a possible further by-election should Mr Joyce resign from Parliament this year, and the general election Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised for early next year.
There is no evidence Barnaby Joyce wants to resigns and he has shown he is prepared to tough out problems related to his personal behaviour and political problems. But Nationals are privately discussing the possibility and the risk of losing the seat to an independent.
Mr Joyce today started an 11-week absence from his backbench duties on medical advice and the Government hopes controversy over his personal life has "reached its nadir".
That controversy followed a succession of revelations on his private life, often from Mr Joyce himself, and criticism of his appearance in a Seven Network profile this Sunday with partner Vikki Campion and new son Sebastian for which the couple received a $150,000 payment.
The paid "personal leave" will see him attempt a low profile until mid-August, which is after the July 28 unrelated by-elections in five seats in Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
He will also be back at work just before the scheduled launch of a book he has written on his political and personal life.
"Barnaby has a sick leave certificate provided by his medical practitioner, and that's why he has been given leave and any other person in a workplace who has produced such a certificate would get the same kind of leave," manager of government minister Christopher Pyne said today.
"Whether Barnaby's well enough to return to work in his electorate office in New England is really a matter for him and his medical practitioner. It's not a matter for me to cast judgment on.
"He has a certificate from his medical practitioner, which has been provided, and that's why he's been given a pair, appropriately, by the Labor Party, and I think the obsession with pursuing Barnaby Joyce over these issues - perhaps it's reached its nadir."
Labor's agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, who shadowed Mr Joyce when he held that portfolio, has another view of the illness.
He claimed Mr Joyce's problems began when he was Nationals leader and successfully demanded more concessions from Mr Turnbull on such matters as water policy, and regional investment.
Mr Fitzgibbon said this was eating into the authority of the Prime Minister, and became an overindulgence which estranged the two men just as the baby affair exploded.
"He's been given too many policy lollies and this has made him sick," the Labor frontbencher told news.com.au.