Joyce spots chink of light in bid for lower house

BARNABY JOYCE’S path to the House of Representatives – and possibly the deputy prime ministership – appears smoother after the Nationals MP he is seeking to replace refused to commit to recontest his seat.

Senator Joyce has been keen to move to the lower house at the next election. For months he has has been eyeing the Queensland seat of Maranoa, held by Nationals MP Bruce Scott since 1990.

Previously Mr Scott, who held a junior ministry in the Howard government, has resisted pressure to move aside for Senator Joyce, and frequently insisted he would recontest. But with the preselection to be decided for the first time by a postal ballot beginning next month, Mr Scott would only say yesterday he would do what was best for the Coalition.

”I’m a team player of a strong Coalition team and I will be spending my time and energy talking about how we can defeat this dreadful Labor government at the next election,” he said. ”I’m absolutely committed to getting the best for the electorate and do everything I can for a change of government in Canberra.”

He said he was ”fit and healthy” and enjoyed his job but declined to say in the statement, and through a spokeswoman later, whether he would renominate.

Senator Joyce said if Mr Scott did not renominate, he would run. If Mr Scott did nominate, he would consult local Nationals first, but it is believed he would challenge regardless. He said he had no immediate designs on the Nationals leadership, held by Warren Truss, a position he would need to fill if he were to become deputy prime minister in an Abbott government.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, declined yesterday to comment, saying it was a matter for the party.

Preselection squabbles are rife in the Coalition. The Nationals and the Liberals in NSW are at loggerheads over who should run for seats including Hume, Lyne and Gilmore.

NSW Liberal and National officials are trying to finalise an agreement to determine which party runs in which seats.

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