BITTERNESS within the Government caused by handling of the Barnaby Joyce-baby scandal has now exploded in public.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Mr Joyce has given Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull an end-of-year deadline to lift his opinion poll ratings or quit.
And in the process Mr Joyce has made clear he is with the pack of ex-ministers — Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz — prepared to give the Prime Minister a hard time.
Mr Joyce, awaiting the birth of a child by his partner and former staff member Vikki Campion, continues to resent losing his cabinet job and leadership of the Nationals over his messy private life.
It appears he still rankles over Mr Turnbull saying Australians were appalled by his conduct.
And he was commenting on who the Liberals should elect as leader despite being publicly angered in February by what he saw as attempts by an “inept” Mr Turnbull to interfere in the Nationals’ leadership decision.
Mr Joyce told Sky News on Monday night Mr Turnbull should do “the honourable thing” and stand aside if his polling doesn’t improve after a big sell to voters of the May 8 budget, before an election expected by May next year.
Speaking to Sky’s Peta Credlin, who had been chief adviser to Mr Abbott when he was Prime Minister, Mr Joyce said he was just stating “the bleeding obvious”.
But he spoke out as senior government figures were heading in the other direction — rallying around Mr Turnbull and pledging loyalty after his 30th Newspoll loss and dismissing talk of a leadership change.
“We’re stating here the bleeding obvious. Nobody wants to actually go to a federal election which you know you’re going to lose,” Mr Joyce said.
“You have an obligation to all around you that if you honestly believe that is the case, then you must do something about it and do the honourable thing and start grooming an alternative.
“Now we are a long, long way from that at the moment. But if I said ‘Oh well, no-one ever considers it, everything’s fine’, well that is also not telling the truth.
“The first thing you’ve got to be with the electorate is truthful.”
Mr Joyce said the Budget should be dealt with first.
“Get the budget out of the way, working continually as hard as we can to try to sell why that is a good outcome for the Australian people,” he said.
“Then do an honest appraisal of how the Coalition is going much, much further down the track.
“If that honest appraisal is that we’re going well, then you continue on and go to an election and win it. If it’s not, then you do the honourable thing and say ‘OK let’s start looking at what the next plan is’.”
Credlin, who continues to offer advice to Mr Abbott, had her own harsh words on Mr Turnbull over his ousting of her former boss in 2015.
“Malcolm Turnbull got the job he’s coveted all his life,” she told viewers.
“The loser has been the Liberal Party and its supporters, not to forget all those voters who believe they get to choose their leader.
“And the most of all, the ordinary Australian who just wants government to focus on them.”