Senior Nationals have leapt to the defence of Barnaby Joyce after Andrew Broad became the party's first federal MP to publicly call for the embattled deputy prime minister to quit. He's been under scrutiny over the propriety of his new partner's promotions and their living arrangements.
Broad, the member for Mallee, made his thoughts abundantly clear later on, telling ABC Radio that "It is time he takes a step back, " asserting that Joyce should resign and "spend some time on the back bench".
"The one thing that has deeply annoyed me is that there is somehow an inference that this child is somehow less worthy than other children, and it's nearly spoken about in the third person", Mr Joyce said in the interview.
A leadership motion could be moved as soon as Monday, when the 21 Nationals gather for their regularly party room meeting in Canberra, or later in the week.
"If I had three votes they'd all go to him but unfortunately I've only got one", Mr Scullion told ABC radio.
Mr Joyce said the media's questions about their affair had changed from "inquiry to malice".More news: "Interest free" loans for solar and storage for South Australia households
Cabinet minister Nigel Scullion says he "absolutely" supports Mr Joyce, who he believes will be deputy prime minister at the end of Monday. But what does the party room think?
Mr Joyce said he fears his son, who is due in April, will be viewed as "somehow less worthy" than other children and grow up as "some sort of public display".
Joyce's deputy, Bridget McKenzie, said Nationals senators would not attend Monday's meeting - reducing attendance from 21 to 16 - because of Senate estimates commitments. Joyce pleaded with the public and the media to "move on" from the issue.
Earlier on Thursday, Broad shared a quote on Twitter from the late American evangelical Christian minister Billy Graham suggesting that Joyce could no longer serve as leader now that his character had been lost.
She did not explicitly back her leader but said there was "no stronger advocate for regional Australia than Barnaby Joyce".
Mr Joyce's decision to grant a third significant interview this week, in which he complained about being forced out of his rent-free Armidale townhouse, was seen by colleagues as a further error of judgement because it has made a mockery of his time away from the spotlight and gave the story new life.More news: 'Blown away' - Swede Myhrer wins shock Olympic slalom gold
'At this point in time his judgment has erred, he's not thinking in a place where he can be put up as the acting Prime Minister of Australia, he needs some time out to regroup, ' he said.
Instead, finance minister Mathias Cormann was given the job.
Veterans minister Michael McCormack and Victorian MP Darren Chester have been touted as possible leadership contenders.
Broad said he would not be a candidate for the leadership in the event the position was spilled, and he declined to say who he would back if Joyce was toppled.
Senator Cormann told reporters it was important for "all of us" to remember that this discussion concerns human beings.More news: Canada to battle arch-rival USA for women's Olympic hockey gold