National

Nats defend deputy leader Bridget McKenzie

By AAP Newswire

Nationals MPs have come to the defence of Bridget McKenzie after some colleagues aired complaints about her performance as deputy leader.

But they have acknowledged some Nationals are frustrated One Nation has copped some of the credit for their hard work.

Victorian Damian Drum described Senator McKenzie as a "fantastic" deputy and scolded his party room peers for leaking against her.

"It's really poor form to leak anything out of the party room," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"They (colleagues) would be crazy if they were (vying for her deputy position). She is just such a fantastic leader. Bridget is fine, she's done a great job."

The ABC reported rumblings within the party began last week after Senator McKenzie brought forward a dairy industry code of conduct, following pressure from One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.

The code was designed to give farmers more market power in their dealings with milk processors and was one of Mr Littleproud's initiatives.

Queensland MPs, who have been lobbying for the code's introduction, were ropeable after Senator Hanson's demands were met so quickly.

"This is nothing to do with Bridget McKenzie. This is all about One Nation getting credit for something they haven't done," Mr Drum said.

"The Nationals have done all the work behind the scenes. The Nationals deserve credit for that."

Former Nationals leader-turned-backbencher Barnaby Joyce agreed his colleagues want to be "absolutely certain" that people know the Nationals are the reason they have a dairy code.

"We are in a position of a drought, there is so much pressure that is coming onto us, from our constituency," he told ABC TV.

But Mr Joyce said there were no leadership tensions and he's confident in the performance of Senator McKenzie and Nationals leader Michael McCormack.

"Our leaders are doing the best job they possibly can, they absolutely put their shoulder to the wheel."

The Courier-Mail reported Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien told the Nationals party room on Monday that he intended to call a leadership spill, but that never eventuated.

Senator McKenzie, who did not attend the party meeting, said her colleagues hadn't raised the concerns mentioned with her and that she would deal with any such suggestions internally.

Labor frontbencher Murray Watt tried to quiz Senator McKenzie over how long she expected to remain agriculture minister during an estimates hearing on Tuesday.

But he was swiftly shut down by committee chair and Nationals senator Susan McDonald.

Senator Watt also asked Senator McKenzie if she told Mr Littleproud to "stick to his knitting" over portfolio responsibilities.

"He doesn't look like much of a knitter," she shot back.

Nationals junior minister Darren Chester admitted there were disagreements within the party but only because of the complex issues at hand.

"These are difficult issues we're working through and occasionally colleagues might bump into each other and have a disagreement but generally speaking we get on pretty well," Mr Chester said.