Acting prime minister Michael McCormack says the NSW abortion bill is up to state parliament, after Barnaby Joyce called on the leader to speak out against it.
Barnaby Joyce directly lobbied both the prime minister and the federal Nationals leader to speak out against a NSW bill to decriminalise abortion.
The former Nationals leader sent a text message to Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack urging them to make a statement about the issue as they were both NSW residents and political leaders, but neither responded, the Australian Financial Review reports.
Mr Joyce has also threatened to quit the Nationals after being criticised by his NSW Nationals colleagues for speaking at an anti-abortion rally outside NSW Parliament and robo-calling constituents over the issue.
NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro has said while Mr Joyce had a right to express his views, the robo-calls were upsetting some voters.
"Be very careful what message you leave on people's phones," he warned Mr Joyce earlier this week.
Mr Joyce, who led the federal party for two years, responded to those sentiments by threatening to quit the party.
“If we can get four (party members) at a press conference to say so, then I will resign," he told the Seven Network.
Despite his high-profile interventions and threats, Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said the abortion legislation was a matter for the state's parliament.
"It's a heated debate and I appreciated that, but it's also a debate that will be decided by the NSW parliament," Mr McCormack told ABC radio on Friday.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton hosed down Mr Joyce's threats to defect to the federal crossbench, which would destroy the government's one-seat majority.
"He's not going to pull the pin - he is of the National Party and he will remain there," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.
Some NSW Nationals are furious with Mr Joyce for trying to meddle in state affairs, but Mr Dutton said the maverick MP should not be punished for his beliefs.
"Barnaby has a set of core beliefs - he is speaking to those beliefs - we live in a democracy where people can speak and you can disagree or agree with them," he said.
"I don't think you chastise him on that basis."
Meanwhile, one of Mr Joyce's daughters has hit out at her dad's statements on abortion.
In an Instagram post, the politician's young daughter linked to an SBS article about Mr Joyce's rally speech, writing over the article, "Once again I do not support you".
Additional reporting: Rashida Yosufzai