McCormack's rocky first day as acting PM

Whether or not Michael McCormack believes in a budget Santa Claus threatened to turn his first day as acting prime minister from nice to naughty.

Michael McCormack will be acting PM this week for the first time since becoming Nationals leader.

Michael McCormack will be acting PM this week for the first time since becoming Nationals leader.

The Nationals leader endured a tough start in the job after telling the Daily Telegraph that Treasurer Scott Morrison would play Santa by announcing "goodies" in next month's budget.

But Mr Morrison emphatically extinguished the prospect of Christmas in May, laughing off his comparison to Father Christmas.

He instead wanted to talk up the government's fiscal responsibility after declaring "I'm not Santa Claus".

Mr McCormack repeatedly refused to admit he was wrong following the treasurer's rebuke, saying he had no regrets about being enthusiastic about the budget.

"Scott Morrison says it's not going to be a Santa Claus budget and to that end, I agree it's going to be an economically sound and fiscally responsible budget and I agree with him in that regard," he told 2GB.

"At the end of the day it's also going to be a good infrastructure budget."

The two men spoke on Tuesday, but the acting prime minister later insisted the festive analogy had not tarnished his first day living his childhood dream of leading the nation.

"I've already spoken to Scott Morrison and he is looking forward to the budget too," Mr McCormack told reporters in Mildura.

He also suggested the federal government will pay off its $523 billion debt by 2021, the year previously targeted for turning the budget deficit into a surplus.

After starting his 10-day stint as acting prime minister in regional Victoria, Mr McCormack will continue hitting country areas with his Nationals colleagues.

Mr McCormack will address the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday in a speech focusing on job creation in regional Australia and improving connectivity between cities and regional areas.

"I don't intend to lay low," he said.

He's made a largely unspectacular start to life as deputy prime minister after winning the support of the partyroom following the political storm which led to Barnaby Joyce's resignation.

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