NSW Nationals MP Michael McCormack has issued a statement declaring he’ll run for the Nationals leadership following Barnaby Joyce’s resignation today.
Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester and NSW Nationals MP Mark Coulton have indicated they are backing Mr McCormack’s leadership tilt.
Some party members have said they are also hoping the leadership issue can be resolved without the need for a vote at Monday’s scheduled meeting by holding discussions between party members, to decide the most suitable candidate to steer the party to recovery, following a tumultuous period after revelations of issues regarding Mr Joyce’s “private” matters.
In a statement, Mr McCormack put forward his credentials for the vacant leadership post which would also see him elevated to the cabinet and to become Deputy Prime Minister.
“On Monday, I will ask my colleagues to back me for the leadership of The Nationals, so together we can work to grow local economies, increase local opportunities and create local jobs,” he said.
“We can do this together as a united team.”
Mr McCormack said he wanted to acknowledge Barnaby Joyce for his leadership of the party over the past two years and thank him for being a “true advocate” for the needs of regional areas.
“His legacy will endure,” he said.
Mr McCormack said he grew up on a family farm outside Wagga Wagga and was the product of working class parents who “taught me the value of having a go”.
“It is this lesson which has motivated me throughout my life and career,” he said.
“A career from the youngest editor of a daily newspaper at the time in Australia, to starting my own small business, to taking on the great honour of representing the people of the Riverina and Central West as their local member.
“I was appointed to the Ministry in 2013 and have served in various portfolios, including assisting in finance and infrastructure and regional development and, more recently, as Minister for Small Business and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel.
“I am a fighter and I have the drive to deliver.
“When water rights were challenged in my electorate, I crossed the floor to get a better deal.
“When a big American company came knocking to take over GrainCorp, I stood up for our farmers and opposed it.
“Regional communities are the bedrock of Australia and The Nationals reflect this with strong representation and positive outcomes on issues which affect our local communities.
“As I said in my inaugural speech to Parliament in 2010, ‘I promise not to be silent when I ought to speak’.”
NSW Nationals MP David Gillespie said he’d also be throwing his “hat into the ring” to contest the leadership.
Mr Gillespie said he was “safe pair of hands and a good team player” and had also been a capable minister in the rural health portfolio in recent years.
He said he’d be talking to his colleagues on the phone over the weekend and ahead of Monday’s party room meeting, to decide the new leader.
Deputy leader and Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said she wouldn’t be running for the leadership.
“I’m a Senator,” she said, in reference to the party leader needing to come from the Lower House.
Senator McKenzie said she also wouldn’t be running a “running commentary” leading up to the meeting, on who she backed as the next leader, with her “personal vote”.