Nats leader cool on NSW by-election rumour

Matt Coughlan

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has brushed off suggestions NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro is eyeing a switch to federal politics.

Speculation has been rife that Labor MP Mike Kelly could quit and trigger a by-election in Eden-Monaro, a seat the Nationals would have a decent chance of winning.

However, the federal Nationals leader stopped short of giving a ringing endorsement to Mr Barilaro, the NSW deputy premier.

Mr McCormack insists talking about potential candidates is premature.

"If the seat becomes vacant, I'm sure there'll be plenty of good candidates that put their hand up," Mr McCormack told reporters in Queanbeyan, the seat's biggest population centre, on Tuesday.

"John - that's up to him if he wants to be one of those candidates."

He said Eden-Monaro branch members would have their say on any potential candidate in a by-election, emphasising that was a "long way" off.

Mr McCormack praised Mr Kelly for his work in the regional seat, which takes in Mr Barilaro's state electorate.

"I have texted Mike Kelly and wished him all the best, realising he's not in the best of health at the moment," he said.

"But he's a fighter, he's a trooper in every literal sense of the word.

"I hope Mike Kelly pulls through and I wish him every success whether he decides to stay in politics or whether he indeed decides to move on."

On October 22, Mr Kelly was given parliamentary leave for the rest of the year due to illness and consequential surgery.