Chester backs McCormack

GIPPSLAND MHR Darren Chester ruled himself out of contesting the Nationals federal leadership in the wake of Barnaby Joyce’s resignation, throwing his support behind newly-elected leader Michael McCormack.

Mr Joyce stepped down as Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister following recent revelations surrounding his private life. He will go to the backbench.

On Friday, Mr Chester said the party had become distracted in recent weeks by news surrounding the outgoing leader.

“It’s time to unite and focus on the issues that matter to regional Australians,” Mr Chester said.

“The leadership vacancy gives an opportunity to reset the Nationals agenda and unite behind a leader who can help our team move forward.

“In the interest of a smooth transition, it is not my intention to contest the leadership and I will support the member of Riverina, Michael McCormack.”

Mr McCormack holds the defence personnel and veterans’ affairs ministries.

Mr Chester acknowledged Mr Joyce’s “outstanding contribution” to the party as leader, and welcomed his decision to resign in the interest of the federal government.

“Barnaby has worked tirelessly to deliver significant policies and projects that will benefit generations to come,” he said.