Barnaby Joyce dumped as Nationals leader in Australia
Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce during Question Time in June last year. Photo / Getty Images
David Littleproud has vowed to steer the Coalition towards “the sensible centre” in Australia after toppling Barnaby Joyce to take over the National Party leadership.
Littleproud emerged victorious from a three-way contest for the top job which also involved Victorian MP Darren Chester and took place at a party room meeting that lasted more than two hours on Monday.
NSW Nationals senator Perin Davey has been named the party’s deputy leader.
Nationals MPs and senators met at Parliament House at 10am on Monday for a leadership ballot, which is customary for the party following an election.
Speaking after the two-hour meeting, Littleproud said it was the “proudest day of my political life” and he already had set his mind to the 2025 election.
“This is not about the National Party, lurching left or lurching right, it’s using common sense and being in the sensible centre,” he told reporters at Parliament House.
“That’s where you win elections — not chasing extremities.”
Joyce issued an upbeat statement after being booted from his leadership role.
“I suppose you think I am sad. Not really,” he said.
“I gave every ounce of my energy to make sure that I looked after the people of regional Australia.”
Joyce congratulated the new leadership team and said he looked forward to getting back to his family and the people of New England.
“Thank you for all your support, I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of my nation and on behalf of my electorate,” he said.
Former defence minister Peter Dutton was named the Liberal Party’s new leader around the same time on Monday, with Sussan Ley to be his deputy.
Littleproud was asked if it was wise for the Coalition to appoint men to its two most powerful positions given the backlash from female voters at the most recent election.
He responded by saying “Well, there’s two women standing behind me that are powerful and strong”, referring to Senator Davey and Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie.
“I’m proud to say that part of my leadership is two bright, articulate, powerful women. That’s the National Party way,” he said.
Littleproud appeared unsupportive of introducing a short-term emissions reduction target, such as the 43 per cent by 2030 goal set by Labor.
He was also noncommittal when asked about Labor’s promise to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and enact the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Ahead of the party room meeting, Joyce said he was “sanguine” about his prospects.
“I will let the party room make up its own mind about it. It’s incredibly important. It’s a democracy,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.
“I’m happy to stand by my record and let them make the choice.”
Asked on Nine’s Today show who would be his best possible replacement, Joyce said: “I don’t know. Jesus? Mohammed?”
Queensland-based Liberal MP Stuart Robert did a round of breakfast media interviews on Monday morning and praised the Nationals’ “great campaign” in retaining all of their seats at the election.
“David Littleproud – a great colleague of mine from Queensland. I wish them all the best as it goes ahead.”
Asked if he thought Littleproud would defeat Joyce for the top job, Robert said: “I think it’ll be close.”
Littleproud faces the challenge of reuniting a divided Coalition, with a rift over a net-zero emissions target thought to have contributed to a Liberal rout in inner-city seats.
While the Nationals retained all of their lower house seats, the Liberals lost up to 20 of their own, with six MPs felled by “teal” independents who campaigned hard on climate change action and another two seats lost to the Greens.
Former Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who lost his seat of North Sydney to independent Kylea Tink, was asked on Monday morning how much he blamed Joyce for his loss.
“I think there’s a whole package of reasons we lost in inner-city seats like mine. Clearly, climate change was one of the key issues,” he told the ABC.
Zimmerman said Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan’s mid-election campaign intervention on net zero was a “killer moment” for moderate MPs like him.
“There was just an underlying suspicion that at the end of the day that people like Canavan and Barnaby Joyce would prevail if we were elected,” he said.