Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack has been elected the new Federal Nationals leader, seeing out a last-minute challenge from Queenslander George Christensen.
Party members and senators had gathered for a special party meeting at 8am in Parliament House to see former leader Barnaby Joyce formally stand down after weeks of fall out surrounding his marriage break-up and relationship with a former staffer who is now pregnant.
"I want to make sure that people know that in me they will have a fighter. I have a huge challenge ahead of me," Mr McCormack, 53, said after the vote.
He acknowledged the outstanding leadership of Mr Joyce and insisted his legacy would endure.
NSW MP David Gillespie and agriculture minister and Joyce supporter David Littleproud earlier withdrew from a leadership contest.
Mr McCormack is the Federal Member for the Riverina, which covers towns such as Bland, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Cowra, Forbes, Gundagai, Harden, Junee, Lockhart, Parkes, Temora, Wagga Wagga, Weddin and Young.
He was elected to the role in August 2010 and has fought for local communities by advocating against the importation of New Zealand apples in 2011, moving a Disallowance Motion against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in 2012 and successfully lobbying against the proposed takeover of GrainCorp by American multi-national Archer Daniels Midland in 2013.
He was also the Minister for Small Business when the 2016 Census was moved online, which was plagued by major technical problems.
Prior to entering Parliament, Mr McCormack began professional life with a journalism cadetship with The Daily Advertiser newspaper in Wagga Wagga in 1981 and was appointed to the newspaper’s editorship in 1991, becoming the youngest person (27 years of age), at the time, to be appointed to edit a daily newspaper in Australasia.
Mr McCormack has three children with his wife Catherine.