Nationals MPs are in the dark about Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss's future as party leader, and the uncertainty is delaying Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's plans for a mini-reshuffle.
As the Prime Minister weighs up changes to his ministerial line-up, conservative Coalition MPs have welcomed Tony Abbott's decision to stand again in Warringah, with some arguing he should return to the frontbench too.
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Late last year, Mr Truss was widely tipped to announce his retirement before Parliament resumed for 2016 but with six days until the first sitting week, it is unclear what the Nationals' veteran plans to do.
Fairfax Media spoke to ten Nationals MPs, senators and party operatives on Tuesday and all of them admitted uncertainty about what the long-serving leader would do, suggesting only his wife Lyn would be aware of his plans.
Mr Truss has been tight-lipped about his next move in a recent series of interviews.
Four theories are being circulated inside the Nationals; the first would see Mr Truss announce his retirement next Monday - a theory dismissed by confidantes; the second would see Mr Truss step aside towards the end of March; the third would see him announce his retirement when the election is called and the fourth would see him stay in Parliament.
The uncertainty is causing a delay for Mr Turnbull, who is readying a mini-reshuffle to replace Jamie Briggs as Cities Minister and, possibly, Mal Brough who has stood-aside as Special Minister of State.
Mr Turnbull is not urging the Nationals leader to either stay or go.
Liberals say that conservatives Angus Taylor, Dan Tehan, Zed Seselja as well as moderate Jane Prentice are all in the running for roles as assistant ministers when the reshuffle does happen, while Alan Tudge is tipped to move up from assistant minister to the outer ministry.
Conservative MPs welcomed Mr Abbott's decision, announced on Sunday night, to stand again in his seat of Warringah at the 2016 election, and dismissed comparisons with former prime minister Kevin Rudd who hung around and destabilised Julia Gillard until he finally tore her down.
Abbott ally Eric Abetz, who has previously called for Mr Abbott to return to the frontbench, said the former leader was "absolutely no Kevin Rudd and therefore, I believe those sorts of analogies are not appropriate in any way, shape or form" and that he would not destabilise the government.
"Kevin Rudd was always about one thing only: Kevin Rudd. Whereas Tony Abbott has always been about one thing, namely the Australian people."
Nationals senator John Williams said Mr Abbott was a good man and "I think he should be on the frontbench".
But cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg, an Abbott backer who was nevertheless promoted in Turnbull's first ministry, said Mr Turnbull had "made it very clear that he is not bringing Tony Abbott back" and that "we should all move on".
The Prime Minister has previously dismissed calls for an Abbott return and instead stressed the need for renewal.
For the Nationals, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is expected to replace Mr Truss, though Michael McCormack is an outside chance.
Failing that, Mr McCormack is tipped to become deputy leader to Mr Joyce, though his colleagues Darren Chester and Luke Hartsuyker are also in the mix.
And in the Senate, some say Fiona Nash, a Joyce ally, could take over from veteran Nigel Scullion as Senate leader and in cabinet if he decides to step back.
Senator Williams said he "hadn't heard a thing, I've got no idea what is going on, I haven't discussed it with Warren. It's his call,and when Warren does choose to stand down - and that's his call - I think Barnaby will win the leadership".
Mr Chester said there was "no pressure whatsoever on Warren, he can make up his mind and I'm sure he will act in the best interests of the party and regional Australian when he makes that decision".
Further complicating the picture, the Nationals are pushing for a fourth cabinet post.