AGRICULTURE Minister Barnaby Joyce hit out at "rumours" of Liberal figures claiming to have "tricked" senior Nationals during tense budget negotiations over the fuel excise increases on Thursday.
The ABC reported on Wednesday night that unnamed Liberals were boasting of an internal plot to get the budget's fuel excise increases through Cabinet, by making false claims the diesel fuel rebate could be scrapped.
But after the budget negotiations, as APN has previously reported, senior Nationals confirmed they fought not only to continue the $5 billion rebate, but also ensure it rose in line with excise rises.
That budget measure essentially ensured farmers and miners who claim the rebate on off-road diesel use would not face the excise rises, although regular regional motorists would.
Asked in Question Time about the ABC report by Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek about the claims, Mr Joyce spoke to uproarious laughter from the government benches.
Mr Joyce said it had been 262 days "in this place" and he had not been asked a question by the Opposition about agriculture, proceeding to attack Labor over the live export ban among other issues.
"You'd think we may have got a question about the $700 million in drought concessional loans, but no, we got a question about a rumour," he said.
"Here's a rumour I've heard - I've heard the Member for Sydney (Ms Plibersek) wants the Leader of the Opposition's job,"
"We hear lots of rumours around here, but no questions about policy."
A host of other Nationals MPs on Thursday morning fronted the press in an effort to put paid to the "rumour", highlighting that no source was named in the ABC report.
Others privately defended the Coalition's junior partners' record on delivering for regional Australians, citing the $1 Stronger Regions Fund and the diesel fuel rebate as key achievements.
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