Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt. Mike Knott BUN201217PITT3

Pitt does not rule out tilt at top job

KEITH Pitt has not ruled out running for the Nationals leadership position following the stunning resignation of Barnaby Joyce.

After a tumultuous fortnight for the Federal Government, Mr Joyce announced yesterday afternoon that he would step down as leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister roles on Monday.

He will stay on as the member for New England on the backbench.

Pressure had been mounting on Mr Joyce ever since it was revealed that he had an affair with his staffer Vikki Campion, who is now his partner.

They are now living together and their baby is due in April.

Mr Pitt refused to comment on whether he would put his hand up for the coveted leadership position, which could catapult him into one of the most powerful political roles in the country.

Mr Pitt also refused to comment on the legacy Mr Joyce would leave behind.

"Deliberations over any matter in the Nationals party room are confidential and should remain confidential," he said.

"I won't speculate on the outcome of Monday's meeting," he said.

But Acting Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie praised Mr Joyce's leadership.

"There is no stronger advocate for regional Australia," she said.

Rumours swirled after Mr Pitt lost his junior ministerial portfolio in the Cabinet reshuffle late last year that he and Mr Joyce did not get along.

Mr Pitt maintained he had a "professional working relationship" with Mr Joyce.

Then earlier this week, media reports suggested Mr Pitt was part of a trio of National MPs seeking to oust Mr Joyce.

Mr Pitt has denied those claims.

Ladbrokes is offering $34 odds that Mr Pitt will assume the role while Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd comes in at $26.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack is tipped to replace Mr Joyce with NSW Nationals MP David Gillespie also in the hunt.

Former Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson, who has been out of the spotlight since the state election, could not conceal her delight: "Now we can rejoice because we've de-Joyced", she tweeted.

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