Barnaby Joyce remains sanguine about retaining his leadership of the Nationals as he prepares for challenges by David Littleproud and Victorian MP Darren Chester. 

Mr Joyce made his case on the Seven Network ahead of a party room meeting on Monday, saying the junior coalition party must be doing something right given it retained all its seats at the federal election.

“We won every seat we had before the election, we had three retiring members and still won the seats (and) we were in striking distance of one of the two seats we will be able to take in the next election,” he said.

“The Liberals lost 19 seats. 

“In the last two elections, that I’ve been the leader, we’ve only picked up seats. We must be doing something right but the job is not over.”

Mr Joyce refused to say if he had to numbers to remain leader.

“That’s hubris. You don’t run around telling people you’ve got the numbers, you leave that to the room and I’ll be doing precisely that,” Mr Joyce said.

Despite the Nationals retaining all their seats at the May 21 poll under Mr Joyce, the former deputy prime minister has been accused of having Liberal blood on his hands after his strong support of coal turned inner-city voters off sitting moderate Liberals.

Former moderate Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who lost his North Sydney seat after a 12.5 per cent swing against him, accused Nationals MPs of derailing the campaign for inner-city seats.

“There’s a whole package of reasons we lost in inner-city seats like mine. Clearly, climate change was one of the key issues,” he told the ABC.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan’s strong support of coal mining and his opposition to the coalition policy of net-zero emissions by 2050 impacted the inner-city vote, Mr Zimmerman added.

“I thought Matt Canavan’s intervention was one of the killer moments for us.

“There was just an underlying suspicion that at the end of the day that people like Canavan .. and Barnaby Joyce would prevail if we were elected.”

Mr Zimmerman called on the opposition to recognise Labor’s policy of a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, which was significantly higher than the 26 to 28 per cent target the coalition took to the election. 

Mr Littleproud said on the weekend it was the appropriate time to put himself forward to lead the Nationals ahead of the 2025 federal election.

Mr Joyce reclaimed the Natoinals leadership in June 2021 after rolling incumbent Michael McCormack.