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'Not Smart': Barnaby Joyce Warns PM Over Cabinet Promotions

Barnaby Joyce has issued a warning to the prime minister over the promotion of only those who backed Nationals leader Michael McCormack in the recent attempted coup, it has been reported.

Joyce told Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday that such a move was not smart and there would be a corner of his supporters in federal parliament's lower house who were aware they held the balance of power, The Australian reports.

Fellow National MPs George Christensen and Llew O'Brien are prepared to vote against government legislation as payback for McCormack's opponents being left out of the cabinet.

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Barnaby Joyce Loses Nationals Leadership Vote, Michael McCormack Remains Deputy PM

Barnaby Joyce will remain on the parliamentary backbench after failing to unseat Nationals leader Michael McCormack in a party room ballot.

"You can't take my vote for granted ... I'll be looking at everything," O'Brien told the newspaper.

Joyce failed to overthrow McCormack on Tuesday after a spill triggered a vote during a meeting in Canberra.

Former resources minister Matt Canavan quit the cabinet to back Joyce and has not been returned.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Image: AAP

Key allies of McCormack were promoted, including Mark Coulton and Andrew Gee.

Joyce also spoke out against a bid to change National Party rules to prevent leaders being knifed by requiring two-thirds of the party room's agreement to allow a leadership spill.

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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 am fervently opposed to the mooted change to diminish access to senators and members determining their leader," he wrote in an opinion piece for The Australian.

"I am against it because its purpose is to curtail access to a vote, which is obviously a removal of a democratic attribute of our party."