Deputy leadership bid

Update: Barnaby Joyce was elected Nationals leader unopposed on Thursday night.

Senator Fiona Nash was elected deputy leader. Senator Nash and Gippsland MHR Darren Chester were among seven candidates for the position.

GIPPSLAND MHR Darren Chester has confirmed he will nominate for deputy leadership of the federal National Party.

It comes as leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss on Thursday announced his plan to retire from politics.

Current deputy Barnaby Joyce is the front runner to claim the top job, with at least five MPs planning to nominate for the deputy leadership.

Mr Chester confirmed to the Gippsland Times he would put his hand up for the position, but said his first priority was serving his electorate.

“My nomination for the deputy leader position was a reflection of my aim to continue to get the best possible result for Gippslanders. 

“There is an enormous amount of talent in the National Party,” Mr Chester said.

“Ultimately, my number one priority remains the people of Gippsland.

“Once you win your seat in parliament, you’ve got to achieve outcomes for your electorate. 

“That’s what I’ll continue to do and any party leadership matters will always come second in that regard.”

Mr Chester paid tribute to Mr Truss’ leadership of the party.

“Warren Truss has provided the Nationals with stability and strong leadership since 2008,” he said.

“While other political parties were changing their leaders, the Nationals have remained stable and united as our nation faced various challenges.

“Warren will be remembered as one of the great leaders and statesmen, not just of the Nationals, but of all Australian political parties.

“Everyone in our party has enormous respect for Warren and he has been a strong supporter of providing better outcomes for Gippslanders.”

Under the Coalition agreement with the Liberals, the deputy leader of the Nationals is guaranteed a position in cabinet.

Mr Chester, Gippsland MHR since the 2008 by-election, is currently Assistant Defence Minister.

New South Wales MP Mark McCormack is thought to be Mr Joyce’s main challenger for party leadership.

According to The Age, Mr Truss is not expected to step down as Deputy PM until March 17, providing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull time to reshuffle his cabinet.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb yesterday announced he would not stand at the next election, but was likely to retain his ministerial role.