BARNABY Joyce has announced he’ll step down as leader of the Nationals and as Deputy Prime Minister at a meeting of the party, on Monday.
“I will say on Monday morning at the party room, I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia,” he said.
“I have informed the acting Prime Minister, Mathias Cormann, of this. I informed my colleagues of this and there are a couple of things I would like to do.
“I want to thank the people of New England.”
Mr Joyce made the announcement - as revealed by Fairfax Media - to media at a press conference in Armidale – he said he would not be endorsing anyone as the next party leader.
The resignation comes after mounting pressure and media scrutiny of matters he’s described as “private” that ignited after revelations of an affair with his former staff member Vikki Campion who worked in his office after the 2016 federal election when he was Agriculture and Water Resources Minister.
NSW Nationals MP Michael McCormack has been nominated as the leading candidate to become the party’s next leader followed by David Gillespie and Andrew Broad.
Sources are saying they expect minimal changes to the party’s ministerial allocations in the wake of Mr Joyce’s resignation, to try to retain from form of stability within the embattled government, with Mr Joyce also surrendering his job as the Transport and Infrastructure Minister.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he thanked Mr Joyce for his service as Deputy Prime Minister and in his various ministerial roles in which he has been “a fierce advocate” for rural and regional Australia.
“The Coalition between the Liberals and the Nationals is Australia’s most successful political partnership, having endured for more than 95 years,” he said.
“This partnership is undiminished and will continue to deliver opportunity and security for all Australians.
“Pending the Nationals’ election of a new leader and consequent Ministerial changes John McVeigh (Queensland LNP) MP will act as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.”
Asked how he’d like to be regarded, Mr Joyce said “Just as I started”.
“I fought for the person in the weatherboard and iron,” he said.
“I fought for the person I believed was in the peripheries and the small regional towns.
“My goal in life is to try to make their life better and I acknowledge in many areas I am rough around the edges and never tried to be anyone else.”
Mr Joyce said, on his return to the backbenches, “I won't snipe”.
“I have a lot of things I need to do,” he said.
“I'm currently in the process of writing a book about precisely the people I was talking about and I want to make sure I get that concluded.
“I want to assist my colleagues where I can to keep their seats and also, quite naturally, in April, a baby will be born - I'll have other things on my mind.”
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