UPDATE 2PM: Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has today stopped short of giving his unconditional support for local member Bruce Scott, as rumours continue to abound that maverick LNP Senator Barnaby Joyce is eyeing off the Maranoa electorate.

Speaking at a press conference in Warwick this morning after opening the new Grove Juice plant, Mr Abbott was asked if he could guarantee Mr Scott would remain as the LNP candidate for the sprawling seat, which takes in Warwick, whenever a federal election was called.

Mr Abbott replied that it was "up to the democratic processes of the party" to determine the candidate for any seat, but said he had "enormous respect" for veteran MP Mr Scott.

His qualified support for Mr Scott comes amid persistent suggestion that Senator Joyce is determined to move to the lower house, and that Mr Scott could be moved aside into retirement to enable that to happen.

Senator Joyce is also rumoured to be considering taking on independent Tony Windsor in his northern New South Wales seat of New England.

Mr Scott later told the Daily News he had had no discussions with or approach from Senator Joyce and said he was confident he had the strong backing of his local Maranoa LNP membership and the party Divisional Council.

More updates to follow.


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