THE Prime Minister is so concerned with the ongoing Barnaby Joyce scandal, he has reportedly called Nationals MPs to gauge their level of support for the embattled Deputy Prime Minister.
However, Mr Joyce has told his National party colleagues he would not be standing down.
Sky News reported Malcolm Turnbull was hitting the phones just before 7am, asking National party politicians if Mr Joyce could survive as leader of the Nationals.
While Mr Turnbull cannot tell the Nationals MPs what to do, nor can he remove Mr Joyce from his position, it is nonetheless significant.
While the two parties are partners under their power-sharing agreement, the leadership positions are decided quite separately.
Liberal MPs vote for their leader, who becomes prime minister if the Coalition forms government and Nationals MPs decide theirs, with that person becoming deputy prime minister.
Today, Mr Joyce confronted the issue head on in a party room meeting, telling his colleagues he would not quit.
"Everyone in politics goes through a time of trial," Mr Joyce said. "This is mine, but I'll emerge from it."
The Prime Minister has publicly backed Mr Joyce over the course of the scandal.
Earlier today, Mr Joyce released a statement which threatened legal action over a story in the national media, regarding his alleged behaviour following an awards night.
"I completely reject the allegation in the Daily Telegraph this morning," he said.
"It is not the truth. No such thing happened. This and similar nonsense has been retailed in the past by embittered political opponents.
"Given the circumstances, I have consulted senior legal advisers and reserve the right to take action for what is serious defamation."
Mr Joyce also publicly apologised to his wife, daughters and his new partner Vikki Campion.
"I deeply regret the failure of my 24-year marriage, the tremendous hurt caused to Natalie and our four daughters and the unwanted public intrusion into what is an intensely private matter for all of us," Mr Joyce said.
"My marriage was under pressure for some time, Natalie and I tried to make it work again in April last year but it subsequently came to an end.
"I take responsibility for that failure.
"Vikki Campion has also been the subject of unwanted and deeply hurtful commentary at a difficult time, particularly as we are having a child together in mid-April."
Mr Joyce also claimed Ms Campion wasn't his partner when she was moved to Senator Matt Canavan's office for a reported six-figure salary in April 2017, denying an allegation of breaching the ministerial code of conduct, which says all applications for partners working in the same office must be cleared by the Prime Minister.
She was well qualified for the role, was an existing and obviously capable staff member and the change was within the existing Nationals staff arrangement,” Mr Joyce said.
“I did not discuss these matters with the Prime Minister or his office as Vikki was not my partner, so they were dealt with in the usual course of staff deployments within the Party.
“When Mr Canavan stood down over the citizenship issue she went to work for another MP and subsequently left the Nationals staff following the most recent reshuffle.”