Victorian Senator and Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie is moving offices, and its spurring further leadership speculation.
The Australian reported the Minister for Decentralisation, Sport, Regional Services and Local Government is shifting her office from Bendigo to Wodonga.
The move takes her to the Indi electorate, enabling her to contest the upcoming federal election for that seat.
Her decision has been described as step towards challenging Deputy PM and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack for his job. Ms Mckenzie has not confirmed she will contest the seat.
Her Senate term doesn’t expire until 2022, but party rules require the leader to sit in the lower house.
The Indi electorate, perched in northern Victoria below the southern edge of NSW, is represented by independent Cathy McGowan.
Ms McGowan hasn’t not ruled out retiring at the next election and did not speak out against Ms McKenzie’s move.
A Nationals tilt at Indi would cause ructions in the Coalition, which will be desperate to reclaim the the seat which Ms McGowan won from Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella in 2013.
Should Ms McKenzie contest the ballot, the Country Liberals arm of the party would either lose out on a chance to regain former territory, or risk a messy inter-Coalition contest.
The Nationals and Liberal candidates have suffered some alarming losses in NSW seats in recent state byelections and the Coalition will be desperate to avoid a repeat in the federal poll.
In 2016 the minor Shooters Fishers and Farmers party picked up a 35 per cent swing to nab Orange from the NSW Nationals, which had held the seat since 1947.
Last month the Wagga byelection delivered around a 30pc swing against the Liberals in favor of an independent. The Liberals had held the seat for 60 years.
Last year the Nationals held on to Cootamundra and Murray in NSW, but suffered a primary swing of 20pc and 15pc, respectively, with SFF gaining significant ground.
Labor regional services spokesman Stephen Jones said Ms McKenzie’s office relocation was “all about the future leadership of the National Party”.
“This week we understand that she’s lining herself up for the job,” Mr Jones said.
Ms McKenzie has been contacted for comment.
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