‘Time for change’: Darren Chester challenges Barnaby Joyce for Nationals leadership

May 27, 2022
Darren Chester believes it is time for a change in the Nationals' leadership. Source: Getty

Barnaby Joyce’s position as Nationals leader is on the rocks as the party plan to meet in Canberra on Monday, May 30, after the crushing defeat of the Coalition by the Labor party after last weekend’s federal election.

As the meeting draws near, Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester has announced overnight that he will stand against Joyce for the party’s leadership position, setting up an intense showdown between him and Joyce- the man Chester had once described as “incoherent”.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald Chester says it’s “time for a change” in the party, with the Nationals needing to “take some responsibility for the Liberal losses in the city”.

“I think it’s important that we listen to the message that we received over the weekend for the Australian people,” Chester said.

The comment appeared to be a jab at Joyce, as his unpopularity and personal beliefs on climate change action were seen as a factor for the loss of the inner-city seats.

“There’s no question in my mind that some of the comments by a few colleagues … which were quite extreme in their views, had an impact on the Liberal Party candidates in those more moderate parts of urban areas,” he said.

It is understood that while the Nationals retained all 16 lower house seats, they had lost six inner-city seats to “teal” independents, with a number of the Nationals also reportedly upset with Joyce for suggesting the party may drop their support for net zero emission after news of the Coalitions loss was announced.

However, Chester, who had been ousted from his Veteran’s Affairs Minister role soon after Joyce claimed Nationals leadership, admitted he thought his chances of securing the position were low, saying the party had a number of viable leadership options.

Former leader Michael McCormack and Mallee MP Anne Webster have both put their hands up for the position, with McCormack claiming the use of his name alone would have won the inner-city seats and Webster saying while she has “nothing to lose” the party needs a “stable and reasonable” leader.

Queensland Nationals senator and Joyce’s close friend, Matt Canavan argues that it would be “foolhardy” for the Nationals to oust Joyce as the leader, especially at a time when the Labor government needs to be held accountable.

“Now’s the time for stability as much as possible and we had a very good election result,” Canavan said.

“Barnaby did very well and deserves to continue to lead the party.”

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