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Barnaby Joyce Wants To Be Deputy PM But Just Got Roasted By His Replacement

The Nationals are waging internal war again, with Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce trading barbs and insults in the media.

Joyce quit as Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister last year after his relationship -- and child -- with a former staffer was revealed. He was replaced by McCormack, a virtually unknown MP at the time.

Whispers have continued for some time that Joyce wanted his old job back, and with McCormack's uninspiring performance as deputy PM, it seems Barnaby is mounting a challenge to wrestle back the leadership of his party.

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"I am the elected Deputy Prime Minister of Australia," he said in a Radio National interview on Monday morning -- which, technically, is true.

But also, Australians don't directly vote for the PM or his deputy, and Joyce quit that job due to his own penchant for scandal, so his claim doesn't exactly hold a lot of weight.

Don't forget too that, since the last federal election, Joyce was turfed from parliament and found to have not been legally elected due to his dual citizenship -- so, while he was elected at the 2016 election, the High Court said he really shouldn't have been.

The claim came as Joyce tried to damp down rumours that he was circling McCormack for a Nationals leadership spill of their very own, barely six months after their Coalition partners in the Liberals cut down Malcolm Turnbull for what is becoming increasingly evident was no good reason at all.

But Barnaby, while publicly saying he wasn't pushing for a spill, reiterated several times he wouldn't feel bad about trying to knock off McCormack, and that if it did happen, it would be totally fine because he should be the leader anyway.

Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack, in happier times in 2016. Image: AAP

"I am not going to call a spill. I am not looking for numbers... If there was a spill, if the position's vacant, I am the elected Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, so I'd have no, any guilt at all standing, but I don't see that happening," Joyce said.

"So people say, 'oh there's a leadership topple - no it wouldn't be because I'm the elected leader at the last federal election, but I'm not sourcing the job out."

When asked if he would feel any guilt about a leadership spill, Joyce said "no", before adding that leadership speculation was "crap".

As the free-wheeling and increasingly combative interview went on, Joyce appeared to throw the entire Coalition agreement between the Nationals and Liberals into doubt, saying "we are our own party and can pursue policies in our own right... we are not married to the Liberal Party".

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Some observers joked that Joyce was brave to mention marriage, considering his own well-documented personal issues -- and not long after, McCormack himself threw a barb on that very issue.

"I understand what it takes to have a successful marriage," the current Nationals leader responded, in what you may take as a dig at Joyce's personal life.

It got people talking -- including Malcolm Turnbull's own daughter, who called it a "burn".

Asked about the turmoil in the Nationals, current PM Scott Morrison called any speculation "nonsense".

But while he has the backing of the PM himself, McCormack is fighting dramas on a few other fronts -- including popularity.

A poll released Sunday found that most Aussies knew about Joyce, but very few knew much about the current deputy PM. Nearly three-quarters of Australians could pick Barnaby out a crowd, but only 28 percent know who McCormack is.

It's full-on war in the Nationals, and it seems to be leading up to a party-room showdown in Canberra next month. If there's going to be a leadership spill, it would have to be held at this forum -- which, amazingly, would be held on April Fool's Day.