Nats elect a ‘fighter’ to top job

By Country News

Veterans Affairs Minister and NSW MP Michael McCormack has been elected the new federal Nationals leader, seeing out a last-minute challenge from Queenslander George Christensen.

Party members and senators gathered in Canberra for a special party meeting on Monday morning, 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 said after the vote.

He mentioned water security several times and 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’s electorate of Riverina includes the towns of Cootamundra, Cowra, Forbes, Gundagai, Junee, Lockhart, Parkes, Temora, Wagga Wagga and Young.

He was raised on family farms at Marrar and Brucedale and his first job was a cadet journalist with The Daily Advertiser newspaper in Wagga Wagga.

He was appointed editor in 1991.

Elected to parliament in 2010, Mr McCormick spoke in parliament in 2012 about the threat the Murray-Darling Basin Plan posed to irrigation entitlements.

Victorian MP Andrew Broad likened Mr McCormack to former leader Warren Truss.

‘‘Michael is going to be a good guy. I think he will be a very solid performer, but it’s the team that wins elections,’’ Mr Broad told ABC radio on Monday.