Nats leader won't examine abortion claims

Daniel McCulloch
Barnaby Joyce says he knew his role as deputy PM was in danger ahead of a crucial by-election

Nationals leader Michael McCormack won't investigate allegations people in federal parliament tried to pressure Barnaby Joyce's lover Vikki Campion into having an abortion.

In a television interview aired on Sunday night, Ms Campion said she was told by "conservatives" within parliament to have an abortion or risk people "coming after her".

Mr McCormack, who replaced Mr Joyce as deputy prime minister in February, said he knew nothing of the allegations and defended his Nationals partyroom colleagues.

"They are the finest people in regional Australia and I'm proud to serve with each and every one of them," Mr McCormack told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

"If there's anything else to be said, that should be between Barnaby and Vikki and whoever they are saying, they are alleging, made the comments."

Mr Joyce has admitted to fighting for his political survival, despite knowing his job was untenable after Ms Campion fell pregnant.

Critics are calling on the former deputy prime minister to resign from politics.

"Barnaby has taken leave from the parliament and I think he should probably pack up his office, go home and spend time with his family," Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Seven Network.

"He will never be the deputy prime minister again. He will never be the leader of the Nationals, and I don't think he will ever get re-elected in the seat of New England."

Independent senator Derryn Hinch said Mr Joyce had thrown Ms Campion under the bus and was still betraying the National Party.

"I think he will finally quit; he won't stand for re-election," Senator Hinch said.

But former prime minister Tony Abbott doesn't agree.

"It's a brave person who writes off anyone in this vale of tears, even someone who is going through the wars a bit," Mr Abbott told 2GB radio.

"He's a friend and he'll stay a friend and I think that if he wants to he still has a quite a bit more to give to our country."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the interview had "drawn a line in the sand".

Treasurer Scott Morrison argued it was time to move on.

"I think it's important that all those involved can now just get on with their lives," he told reporters in Sydney.

NSW Liberal state government minister David Elliott accused Mr Joyce of "prostituting" his story.

"Suggesting that selling your soul for cash is somehow 'for the kid' is pathetic," Mr Elliott posted to Facebook.

"What kind of man forfeits his fatherly responsibilities by humiliating their wife-mistress-daughters in the mass media?"

Mr Joyce reclaimed his seat of New England in a by-election last December after being flushed out as a dual citizen.

He resigned the Nationals leadership in February, weeks after the affair and pregnancy were exposed.

The interview was the ninth most watched program on Australian television on Sunday, drawing an audience of 631,000.