Hinkler MP Keith Pitt with former human services minister Alan Tudge.
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt with former human services minister Alan Tudge. Craig Warhurst

Crunch time for Hinkler MP as Labor extends welcome hand

SPECULATION over Keith Pitt's future continues with sources suggesting Labor is preparing to reach out to the dumped LNP assistant minister if he quits the party to sit on the crossbench.

It's been a week of upheaval for Mr Pitt and the Nats after a Cabinet reshuffle saw Mr Pitt lose his assistant trade minister portfolio.

Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester was also booted from Cabinet, with Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce taking over that portfolio, which has added to the furore within the party.

Courier-Mail reports that one Labor figure said the Opposition was already reaching out to the disgruntled Mr Pitt.

"He's well regarded. He has good relations with Labor people,” he said.

"He's the sort of person we would be able to deal with.”

Mr Pitt has done nothing to dispel the rumours despite opportunities to do so.

On Wednesday, a disappointed Mr Pitt twice refused to rule out leaving the Nationals.

Instead Mr Pitt reiterated his focus to deliver for his Hinkler constituents.

"My priority - as it always has been - is to serve the people of Hinkler,” he said.

Mr Pitt has tried to put to bed rumours of bad blood between him and Mr Joyce saying he had a "professional working relationship” with the Deputy Prime Minister.

But that rumour has been further fuelled by Mr Joyce's claims on Sky News that his office had phoned Mr Pitt after concerns he might walk away, which a spokeswoman for Mr Pitt denied.

She said there had been no phone call.

If Mr Pitt does leave the party, his departure would cost the Prime Minister his one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

The speculation has undoubtedly caused headaches for Mr Turnbull, who would have wished for a relatively quiet Christmas period after a troubling year with the citizenship saga and bad polling.

Mr Turnbull then finished off the parliamentary calendar on a high with the successful passing of the same-sex marriage Bill.

Former politician Tony Windsor, who has had his own battles with Mr Joyce over the years, sent out a cryptic tweet saying this was a test for Mr Pitt.

"This is as much a test of Keith Pitt as it is of the Humble One ... the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Mr Pitt obviously knows what's been going on and struggling with his moral compass,” the tweet said.



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