Keith Pitt and Barnaby Joyce.
Keith Pitt and Barnaby Joyce. Eliza Goetze

Nationals MP Keith Pitt quiet on Barnaby Joyce controversy

HINKLER MP Keith Pitt has deflected questions regarding the political future of Nationals colleague and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce amid growing pressure for him to step aside.

Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were grilled in parliament during question time today from the opposition about Mr Joyce's future in Cabinet after he admitted to having a relationship with his former media staffer Vikki Campion.

Mr Joyce maintained that Ms Campion was not his partner when she worked in his office or Senator Matthew Canavan's.

But Coalition MPs are privately fuming the affair has dominated the news cycle and threatens to derail any message the government wishes to focus on.

Late last year, Mr Pitt was demoted from his trade minister portfolio after a controversial Cabinet reshuffle.

Speculation was that Mr Pitt was dumped because he and Mr Joyce do not get along.

At the time, Mr Pitt told the NewsMail he had a "professional working relationship" with Mr Joyce despite media reports suggesting otherwise.

Today, the NewsMail asked Mr Pitt if he thought Mr Joyce should step down, if he thought his demotion was in any way linked to Mr Joyce's relationship with Ms Campion and, if he ever confronted Mr Joyce about his infidelity.

"Many of those questions are more suitable to be directed to the Deputy Prime Minister's office, but my priority is working for the people of Hinkler on announcements and policy, like the Cashless Debit Card, which I've been working tirelessly on to help the vulnerable children in our community," Mr Pitt said.

Meanwhile Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd was wasting no time as he announced his interest in becoming Nationals leader should the position become vacant.

Mr O'Dowd told 4CC this morning that the situation was "embarrassing and a distraction" and if the position became vacant "a lot of hands would go up".

He acknowledged that his could be one of them.


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