Late night talks over Coalition Agreement: Joyce

UPDATE 9.55PM: NATIONALS Leader Barnaby Joyce plans to revisit the Coalition Agreement with his newly-anointed Deputy, Fiona Nash, before meeting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

But Mr Joyce said late this evening he did not expect any major changes to the agreement formed between Mr Turnbull and former Nationals Leader Warren Truss.

Mr Joyce and Senator Nash addressed reporters in Parliament House, Canberra, on Thursday night, following a ballot for the deputy Nationals leadership which saw Sen Nash win the role ahead of six other candidates.

Sen Nash, the first female to fill a senior party leadership in the Nationals, said it would be "quite a different" party too that led by Mr Truss, although she said the future of the party would be built on Mr Truss' success as leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

As Mr Turnbull looks to reshuffle his Cabinet this weekend, Mr Joyce also indicated he would be seeking a fourth seat for the Nationals in Cabinet, due to a 21-strong party room since the 2013 election increasing the ratio of Nationals to Liberals in the Coalition.

But both Mr Joyce and Sen Nash did not outline their intentions regarding portfolios or which other party members could be promoted or demoted, ahead of a late-night meeting to discuss the matter tonight.

While several Nationals nominated for the role of deputy, party figures told APN it was unclear who would win the ballot, despite Sen Nash being seen as a key choice to help the party present a more diverse image to regional Australia.

UPDATE 9.06PM: SENATOR Fiona Nash has won the ballot for the Deputy Leader of the Nationals Party in Canberra, to be new Leader and Deputy Prime Minister-elect Barnaby Joyce's second in command.

Sen Nash was one of seven candidates to put their hand up for the Deputy role, wwhile Mr Joyce was, as earlier reported, uncontested for the Leader's position.

Sen Nash will become the Nationals' first female Deputy Leader, in a move which some party members hope sends a signal to rural and regional women.

Nationals Deputy Whip George Christensen said due to Nationals rules, the breakdown of the votes for each candidate would not be reported tonight.

Mr Joyce will have to renegotiate the terms of the Coalition Agreement with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull - talks expected to begin this weekend.

The changes in the Nationals, and recent changes in the Liberal Party have precipitated a ministerial re-shuffle Mr Turnbull is now considering, with an announcement expected this weekend.

UPDATE 7.30PM: UP to seven Nationals MPs were expected to put their name forward for the Deputy Leader spot in a ballot for the Nationals leadership, with Barnaby Joyce a shoe-in as Leader.

APN has been told by several sources seven Nationals members may put their names forward: Michael McCormack, Senator Fiona Nash, Darren Chester, Luke Hartsuyker, Mark Coulton, David Gillespie and Keith Pitt.

Mr Pitt's spokeswoman said he was considering putting his name forward, but would decide "in the room".

Several other sources have said the other six are almost certain to put up their hand to be Deputy to Leader-elect Barnaby Joyce.

A series of ballots will be held tonight, with consecutive votes to knock out those with the least support, until a Deputy is chosen.


UPDATE 3:50PM: RIVERINA MP Michael McCormack, the frontrunner expected to contend Barnaby Joyce for Nationals leadership, has announced he will not make a bid for the role. 

"At this evening's party room meeting, I will be supporting Barnaby Joyce for the leadership of The Nationals. Barnaby has served our party as Deputy Leader and our country as Agriculture Minister with tenacity, drive and passion - and I know he will bring those qualities to the leadership of The Nationals." Mr McCormack said. 

He will instead nominate for the Deputy Leader's position when the Nationals party room meets tonight. 

"Should my colleagues provide me with the opportunity, I would be privileged to work as part of a unified leadership team to deliver laws, policies and programmes which benefit all rural and regional Australians," he said. 


UPDATE 3:30PM: BARNABY Joyce is set to take over the leadership, unopposed, when the Nationals party room meets tonight to elect a new leadership team.

Mr Joyce, current Deputy Leader and Agriculture Minister, as expected to take over from retiring leader, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.

But there were at least three potential contenders to fill Mr Joyce's current role when the meeting begins at about 8pm tonight.

Leading the field was Riverina MP Michael McCormack, with northern New South Wales MP Luke Hartsuyker and Victorian MP Darren Chester also tipped to stand for the deputy role.

With a majority of the 21-strong Nationals party room from Queensland, and just three from Victoria, it was expected most of the Queenslanders would support Mr McCormack.

More to come.


EARLIER 11:58AM: RETIRING Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has told parliament of how he never wanted to lead the Nationals.

Mr Truss this morning gave his retirement speech in parliament in Canberra, ahead of a ballot for the Nationals leadership set to go ahead later tonight.

He said while he was "particularly honoured" to lead the Nationals, "when I became the leader in 2007, nobody wanted the job, including me".

"I'm pleased that now it seems everybody wants the job, and whoever becomes the leader I would be glad to serve under any one of them," he said.

Mr Truss took the leadership in 2007 after the Howard Government lost power, a time Mr Truss said that "the media were saying we were finished".

But he said such comments had been made about the Nationals for 80 years, and "we seem to have survived our critics".

Mr Truss spoke fondly of his time in various ministerial roles during his 26 years in parliament, despite also not wanting the Agriculture portfolio.

"I had been involved in agricultural politics before and I knew how farmers treated their agriculture ministers," he said.
"You simply cannot achieve what your constituency expects of you."

Mr Truss, who also served as Trade Minister, described his achievements as minor when compared to current Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who he stood "in awe of".

Mr Robb, also planning to retire from parliament at the coming election, achieved three free trade agreements since 2013, with Japan, China and Korea, as well as recently signing the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mr Truss also said a key achievement in previous and current roles ass transport minister was upgrading the Bruce Highway.

He said when he first got the Transport portfolio in the Howard Government, there were about 53 deaths on the highway every year, and this year the death toll was averaging 17.

"That's far too many, but it does demonstrate investments in capital infrastructure not only have an economic benefit, but have a social benefit as well," he said.

Mr Robb also gave his retirement speech, saying he arrived late to parliament at 52, despite years in the "backroom" as federal secretary of the Liberal Party.

He said that he often felt he was in a rush and "running" to achieve what he hoped, and that "we all hope to make a difference".

Mr Robb, who has fought a lifelong battle with depression, said sometimes he also felt that politics could be "soul-destroying".

"It came to head during my time during Malcolm (Turnbull) first leadership opportunity, and he was very supportive," he said.

Mr Robb said when Tony Abbott first won the Liberal leadership and gave him the chance to return to Shadow Cabinet, it was a "real boost".

"I thank the whole chamber for the support I got, and the normality and not at it like you've got three heads," he said.
Mr Robb said there was never really a "right time to leave", but it felt like "an opportune time to hand over the baton".

"In 30 years involved in and around politics, I feel that we've never had such depth of talent in the party room," he said.

"I have enormous confidence in the team we have."