McCormack Apologised To Morrison For 'Necessary' Spill Distraction

Nationals leader Michael McCormack says Tuesday's leadership bout with Barnaby Joyce was necessary but was "not sure" how close the vote was.

"I appreciate that yesterday was probably necessary to take place, it has taken place," the deputy prime minister told Sky News.

"Barnaby has pledged his loyalty, he said he won't re-challenge. We now need to draw a line under it and move on and make sure as members of the National Party we concentrate on the people who matter most, and that's the people we serve."

Michael McCormack survived a challenge from Barnaby Joyce to remain Nationals leader and deputy PM. Image; AAP

A rump of Nationals colleagues are unhappy with Mr McCormack for failing to "cut through" with regional voters and struggling to stand up to the Liberal Party on pet policy issues.

Mr McCormack could face another challenge if his performance does not improve. For his part, Mr Joyce has insisted he won't have another crack at the top job.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr McCormack had apologised for the ugly episode, which overshadowed a day of parliament intended to honour bushfire victims.

(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

"I was happy to see the Nationals deal with these matters as quickly as possible, as they did, so we could get the focus very quickly back onto the importance of yesterday.

"Michael McCormack has made it clear this morning that he has apologised that there was that event yesterday morning, but they dealt with it quickly, and we got back straight on the job as we never department from in the government."

The prime minister is also confident Mr Joyce won't launch a second strike. "He said he's not challenging again," Mr Morrison said.

"The media might want to talk about it but I think Barnaby ruled a line under that pretty clearly yesterday."



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Queensland frontbencher David Littleproud was elected deputy Nationals leader, replacing Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie after she quit over the sports rorts scandal.

Mr Littleproud said the leadership spill was "actually quite a healthy thing".

"All this titillation and speculation is actually healthy," he told reporters. "We're mature adults ... we have a beer and we move on."

Mr McCormack now has to decide on a ministerial reshuffle after Resources Minister Matt Canavan quit to support Mr Joyce.

Darren Chester and Keith Pitt are expected to be promoted to cabinet posts.