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Nationals rift widens as MP quits party

The Nationals have been plunged deeper into turmoil with a backbench MP quitting the party and becoming deputy speaker against the government's wishes.

Queenslander Llew O'Brien told Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night he would no longer attend Nationals partyroom meetings.

The Liberal and National parties are merged in Queensland, unlike other states and territories. Mr O'Brien will still belong to the coalition, despite not attending National Party meetings.

"I will remain a government member," the former police officer told AAP on Monday.

"I support the government and I support Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and every decision I make in Canberra will continue to be in the best interests of Wide Bay."

Later in the day, Labor nominated Mr O'Brien for deputy speaker in a bid to embarrass the government, which picked Nationals MP Damian Drum for the job.

In a humiliating result for the coalition, Mr O'Brien won 75 votes to 67.

It is understood there was 64 Labor and six crossbench votes, making it likely five rebel Nationals voted against the government.

Mr O'Brien will receive a 20 per cent pay boost, taking his annual salary from $211,250 to more than $250,000.

Nationals MP and fellow Queenslander Ken O'Dowd was one of Mr O'Brien's supporters.

"I really take my hat off to Llew for making a stand. Fortune favours the brave," Mr O'Dowd told the ABC.

Mr O'Dowd lost a partyroom vote to Mr Drum to be the Nationals pick for the role.

He revealed Barnaby Joyce had intended to nominate him for the position in parliament, but abandoned the idea at his request.

"That was on the cards and I pulled out because I didn't want to wreck," he said.

He said his support for his disgruntled colleague was about boosting the number of Queenslanders in powerful positions.

Asked whether Mr Joyce should return to the leadership, Mr O'Dowd said: "I think if the chips are right, the wind is blowing the right, then yeah he should."

But he insisted Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had plenty of time to correct his failings.

Mr O'Brien triggered the spill required for Mr Joyce to contest the Nationals leadership last week, with Mr McCormack retaining his position.

Mr Joyce lamented his colleague's departure, but said it was for Mr O'Brien to explain his decision.

"It's incredibly sad ... we want to keep him in the team," he told the ABC.

"People can read it any way they want."

Mr Joyce said he was disappointed the party hadn't selected a "balanced" ministry after the spill.

While the move is obviously a reflection on Mr McCormack's leadership, it deprives Mr Joyce of one vote in any future Nationals leadership spill.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it was "business as usual".

"He continues to serve as a member of the LNP, he continues to sit in our joint party room, and he continues to support the government," he said.

But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese relished the chaos after Mr Morrison congratulated Mr O'Brien.

"No amount of marketing and spin can hide the humiliation from that vote," Mr Albanese told parliament.

© AAP 2020