FEDERAL Nationals director Scott Mitchell has announced he’ll be stepping down early next year, after serving five years in the job.
Mr Mitchell has held the role since March 2012 and was intimately involved in the Coalition’s successful 2013 and 2016 federal election campaigns where the party bolstered its representative numbers in parliament.
He advised members of the federal parliamentary team and other executive members during a party room meeting in Canberra this morning.
The former Young Nationals president has not yet indicated what his next career move will be but it’s understood he’s considering several potential options, including pursuing commercial opportunities.
Mr Mitchell took up the federal director’s position in Canberra after a three and a half year stint working as Chief of Staff for former WA Nationals leader and Agriculture Minister Terry Reman.
He also worked as a senior trade and policy adviser at the National Farmers Federation and for former Nationals Leader and cabinet minister Mark Vaile.
Hailing from regional Victoria, he was also Federal President of the Young Nationals from 1999 to 2001.
In a statement, Mr Mitchell said with the dust now settling on the 2016 federal election, he had advised the party’s federal management committee and parliamentary party room that he intended to step down as federal director in early 2017.
He said it had been a “privilege” to be the federal director of The Nationals for almost five years and campaign director for the past two federal elections.
“These were two historic elections where The Nationals played a significant role – in 2013, under the leadership of Warren Truss, defeating the Rudd Labor government, and in 2016, under the Leadership of Barnaby Joyce, ensuring the re-election of the Coalition,” he said.
“At both elections, we gained seats, increased our percentage of the Coalition and were thus able to increase our representation in the Coalition Ministry.
“I have been honoured to work closely with two Nationals Leaders in Warren and Barnaby, and I thank them both for their support and friendship.
“I have also been privileged to work closely with two Prime Ministers in Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.”
Mr Mitchell thanked a range of colleagues including various state and campaign directors.
“Like both my Liberal Party counterparts, I am a strong Coalitionist, and I want to thank Tony Nutt, and Brian Loughnane with whom I enjoyed an exceptional working relationship,” he said.
“I wish to thank my Executive of Larry Anthony, Dexter Davies, John Sharp, Ann McKenzie and past Federal Presidents Christine Ferguson and John Tanner as well as the Federal Parliamentary Party and particularly Mark Coulton MP.
“I also thank our many grass roots members, who work anonymously for the good of the nation, and without whom the party would not exist.
“I wish my successor all the best.
“I am departing this job in the knowledge that The Nationals are in a strong position to do well at the next election and keep Australia in the safe hands of a Coalition government.”
A joint-statement from Mr Joyce and Mr Anthony praised Mr Mitchell for having overseen one of The Nationals’ most successful election campaigns in decades and two important ones that had “delivered for regional Australia”.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition was able to secure majority government by one-seat and The Nationals increased their numbers by one seat.
“Scott Mitchell’s commitment to the party, his heavy-lifting on tough issues, his passion for The Nationals as being local champions; and his strategic advice during a tough and gruelling campaign were key to the Coalition’s election victory,” he said.
“Scott and I have worked together very well.
“Like me, he understands that regional and middle-ground Australia are not interested in esoteric debates on issues that excite a niche philosophising set.
“Right from the get-go he has been a champion of job security, strong regional economies, border security and building infrastructure to grow our jobs and exports.”
Mr Anthony said Mr Mitchell had held many positions in the party over the years at both an organisational and ministerial staffing level.
But he said “without a doubt” he made his best mark when he took on the position as party director and helped steer two important election wins.
“These have been incredibly important wins for regional Australia who depend and rely on The Nationals to be their champions in government,” Mr Anthony said.
“The Nationals, like no other party, are an organisation born out of its membership.
“Scott not only recognised and understood that but he valued that and championed that.”
Federal Nationals’ Treasurer John Sharp said the Nationals had formed a committee for the purpose of identifying a replacement for Mr Mitchell, and hoped to have that finalised by the end of the year to allow for a proper transition.
“His will be very hard footsteps to follow - the bar has been set at a very high level,” he said.
Queensland LNP President Gary Spence thanked and acknowledged the outgoing federal director’s work over the past five years.
He said Mr Mitchell worked very closely with the LNP in the 2013 and 2016 federal election campaigns and was of great assistance in its efforts to retain the seats of Capricornia and Flynn, which were crucial to the Coalition retaining government.
“We wish Scott all the very best for the future,” he said.