QUEENSLAND Nationals MP George Christensen says whoever replaces Barnaby Joyce needs to “step up to the mark” and “be a fighter” for rural and regional Australia.
After Mr Joyce’s resignation today, Mr Christensen wasn’t declaring his hand on who he’d be backing for the Nationals leadership at Monday’s party room meeting, in an interview with Fairfax Media.
But instead, he put forward the type of characteristics that the next leader will need to possess to be an effective “champion” on rural issues, including those that impact farmers, given Mr Joyce was a “force of nature”.
“I’ve not even spent a brief moment of thought on (who will be the next leader),” he said.
“My thoughts are still with Barnaby and think it’s a very sad day, not just politically for the Nationals but also for rural and regional Australia.
“Quite obviously there were personal issues which were substantial enough for the media, the Canberra press gallery, to go crazy about, and political opportunists.
“But despite that personal situation, I’ve got to say Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister was one of the greatest champions I’ve seen for rural and regional Australia.
“His ferocity, his tenacity and his passion being absent from the cabinet room is going to mean that rural and regional Australia is all the poorer for it.
“Whoever gets the nomination, or is elected to the National Party leadership, there will be a great onus on them to step up to the plate.
“Barnaby was a unique character – an eccentric – that’s undoubtedly true.
“His friends and critics would say the same and those types of people don’t normally rise to positions of leadership; never mind the Deputy Prime Minister.
“He was a force of nature both within the cabinet and within the government and in the public talking a language that they understood; particularly the constituency of the Nationals which is the people of rural and regional Australia.
“There’s going to be a greater onus on the next leader of the Nationals to take up the fight because no matter who it is, they won’t have the same powers that Barnaby Joyce did.
“We’re going to have to take up issues and fight those issues within the government and publicly and win on those issues.”