PARTY ROOM: Nationals MPs George Christensen (left) and Darren Chester.
PARTY ROOM: Nationals MPs George Christensen (left) and Darren Chester. LUKAS COCH

Christensen hasn't ruled out running for Deputy PM

ON MONDAY there will be a new Nationals leader, when Barnaby Joyce resigns after weeks of turmoil over his private life.

His colleagues in Central and North Queensland were overwhelmingly 'saddened' and 'dismayed' at the turn of events yesterday.

Dawson MP George Christensen hasn't ruled out nominating as leader.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, the Party whip and who has ruled out standing for the leadership position, said she was "deeply saddened" by the shock resignation announcement. She said "intense media coverage" on Mr Joyce's affair took its toll, with the former Deputy PM to move to the backbench.

Despite previously saying Mr Joyce had the numbers in the Party to survive, Ms Landry said she had accepted the situation.

She said the Party would be depleted of a "great leader".

"He has helped me a lot in my career and has been a mentor for me," said Ms Landry.

"But sometimes you have to call it quits and that's what he's done."

Rockhampton-based Senator Matt Canavan was equally as saddened, saying Mr Joyce was a great mate and "helped pull the Nationals back from the grave". "He often took up arguments or causes that many seasoned politicians, or advisers, would caution as being 'too courageous'," Sen Canavan said.

"He fearlessly defended the wealth-producing industries of Australia, such as farming, mining, forestry, fishing and manufacturing," he said.

Following a formal request from Acting Nationals Leader, Bridget Mackenzie, Ms Landry announced she had called a Nationals Party room meeting for Monday to determine a new leader.

Dawson MP George Christensen hasn't ruled out nominating, and said he would make that decision over the weekend.

Asked if he was interested in helping lead the party and the nation, he said he "hadn't thought about that at all, (my) thoughts (had) been around Barnaby stepping down". "No I haven't (ruled it out), I am just not thinking about it now," he said.

Mr Christensen said Mr Joyce told him he was stepping aside a couple hours before the announcement was made, unlike Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who said he found out through journalists. "I did express my sadness and dismay," Mr Christensen said. "It is a political loss to the nation but also a loss to rural and regional Australia."

Mr Christensen said Mr Joyce was a ferocious fighter for regional and rural Australia including places like Mackay, Proserpine, Bowen and the Burdekin.

Mr Christensen said the new leader needed the same vigour, if not more, within the cabinet to make sure country Australians were represented.

"If the Nationals don't have someone in there like that, the majority of voices who are all city-based will swamp those from regional and rural Australia," Mr Christensen said.

Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd said he would not be contesting the leadership.

State MP for Whitsunday Jason Costigan also acknowledged Mr Joyce's strength as a leader.


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