The gals are fighting again *sigh*. The Nationals Party leadership is being contested following the Coalition’s election loss and less than 12 months after Barnaby Joyce was reinstated in the role.
Former Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester confirmed he would challenge Joyce for the leadership when the party meets in Canberra on Monday because it was “time for change”.
“We need to be honest with each other in the party room and take some responsibility for the Liberal losses in the city,” Chester told The Age Thursday evening.
Chester said he’d heard from constituents during the campaign that many “couldn’t stomach” Joyce as leader and some of his colleagues said having Joyce as leader was partly to blame for the Coalition’s election loss.
“I’m concerned as I travel around my electorate and regional Australia, I’m constantly getting feedback from younger voters and female voters. They don’t think we connect with them, we are not focused on the diversity of issues they are interested in and I need to focus on ways to connect with these people,” he said at a press conference on Friday morning.
Chester said he believed he would be a “fresh start” and could offer a “moderate, more respectful” approach.
Chester holds the regional seat of Gippsland in Victoria is a more moderate Nat, sure. He previously supported former leader Michael McCormack in the last leadership spill that saw Joyce return. But Chester’s still a Nat — a party that has routinely denied climate change and arguable held Australia’s climate policy back for decades.
Joyce sacked Chester from his job as veterans affairs minister after the spill which was seen as a reprimand for not supporting him. Basically there is definitely some bad blood there.
“I’m not here to tip a bucket on Barnaby Joyce, he’s our leader and has done the best he can do in that job,” Chester said on Monday.
“When we have a transition point like an election, in the National party the leadership positions are declared vacant, both leaders and deputy, and I think it is healthy for the room and good for the democracy of the room that members who are interested in taking a leadership role put their hand up.”
Just to be clear, no back-stabbing.
“That’s what will happen on Monday, it may well be more than me that puts our hand up. I think it’s important we listen to the message we received over the weekend from the Australian people.
“I think they want us to be perhaps more moderate and more respectful in public debates in this country. They want a calmer democracy I guess and I think I can offer that to the room.”
To be fair pretty much anyone would be a calmer, less chaotic presence than Barnaby Joyce so we’ll find out on Monday whether the rest of the party agrees that’s what they need or whether they stick with the clown.