Australia’s Political Stability in Focus Again With Joyce Reports

(Bloomberg) -- Two months after Australia’s government was rocked by political upheaval that saw Scott Morrison emerge as prime minister, speculation is mounting that more turmoil is brewing in the ruling coalition.

Media reports emerged on Thursday that Barnaby Joyce could challenge for the leadership of the government’s junior coalition partner the Nationals, just eight months after being forced to quit the role when it was revealed he’d had an extramarital affair with a former aide.

Joyce, the highest-profile lawmaker in the rural-based Nationals, said in an interview on Wednesday that he wasn’t canvassing for support from colleagues but would take the job if it was offered to him. On Thursday, his replacement as the party’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, said in a Sky News interview that he was confident he would remain in the top job.

A strike against McCormack, who has struggled to put his stamp on the leadership, may not be imminent. Still, the speculation wasn’t welcomed by Morrison, who is seeking to reverse polls that show his government is on track to lose power in national elections that must be held by May.

The prime minister is trying to project an image of stability within his Liberal-National coalition, even as he faces the possibility that a poor result in a special election in the Sydney seat of Wentworth on Saturday may see the government lose its lower-house majority and complicate his legislative agenda.

“I don’t get distracted by what goes on here in Canberra,” Morrison told reporters in the national capital on Thursday. “I keep 100 percent focused on what you need me to be focused on out in the rest of the country.”

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