Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce, a member of the Australia Federal Senate, talks during an interview in Canberra December 2, 2005. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has dismissed claims that he is pushing for control of the $50 billion infrastructure rollout from the federal government. He said it “didn’t come from me.”

The development comes after news emerged that the deputy prime minister confirmed through multiple government sources that he has discussed a possible move to consolidate the portfolio under his authority in a cabinet reshuffle in July.

"I don't know where that story came from, it certainly didn't come from me," he said, speaking with ABC radio on Tuesday.

The news, published in The Australian, said Joyce has expressed concern about a failure to "sell" the regional component of the record infrastructure spending by a federal government. The responsibility of the rollout lies with Nationals minister Darren Chester.

Nationals MP Damien Drum, in describing Joyce as an “amazing leader,” said both men were doing a "ripping job" in their positions. “In my electorate water is the most important issue on an ongoing basis and Barnaby has been an amazing leader in that area," Drum said, as reported by AAP (via 9News). "We need Barnaby in that role of agriculture and water and Darren Chester is doing an absolutely ripping job with transport and infrastructure.”

Deputy leader of the Nationals, Fiona Nash, also lauded the deputy prime minister but did not offer any opinion concerning the debate. "Barnaby Joyce has done a tremendous job in the agriculture portfolio," Nash said. "If there's to be any change in portfolio arrangements that's a matter for the prime minister."

The $50 billion program started in 2013-14, under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government. The highest expenditure, with $10 billion to be committed, will be undertaken this year. On Monday, a priority list from Infrastructure Australia highlighted 100 projects with a valuation of $60 billion. Among these, one of the priority projects was the $10 billion Inland Rail freight line between Melbourne and Brisbane. Joyce had successfully secured $500 million to begin work on the project.

Joyce was among notable politicians - including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and crossbench senators Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon - who were recently labelled in the Daily Telegraph story as a bunch of clowns in the Canberra circus. "I can understand the frustration people have that this is turning too much into celebrity," he said, as reported by ABC radio. "Let's do our job, I understand that ... and I take it on the chin."