New Nationals leader Littleproud says 'sensible centre' is where elections are won

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Former agriculture minister David Littleproud has ousted Barnaby Joyce to become Nationals leader.

Perin Davey, a senator since 2019, has been elected his deputy.

Littleproud, 45, who was deputy leader, is from Queensland; Davey, 50, is from New South Wales. Bridget McKenzie, from Victoria, remains the party’s senate leader.

The Liberals, as expected, elected Queenslander Peter Dutton, 51, and Sussan Ley, 60, from NSW, as leader and deputy, respectively, after the pair stood unopposed.

Dutton immediately pitched to the suburbs and small business. He told a news conference: “I want our country to support aspiration and reward hard work,” as well as to “take proper care of those Australians who short-term or long-term can’t take care of themselves”.

“Our policies will be squarely aimed at the forgotten Australians, in the suburbs, across regional Australia.

"Under my leadership, the Liberal party will be true to our values, that have seen us win successive elections over the course of the last quarter of a century.” The Liberals would not be “Labor-lite,” Dutton said.

Joyce won back the Nationals leadership last year, and the Nationals held all their seats at the election and gained a senate seat. But Joyce cost the Liberals votes in the “teal” seats, with teal candidates saying moderate Liberal MPs in those seats, whatever their attitudes on climate change, had voted with Joyce.

Read more: Littleproud ousts Joyce in Nationals leadership spill, as Liberals give Dutton clear run

Littleproud was prominent in the last term, arguing for the Nationals to embrace the net zero 2050 greenhouse emissions target, which they eventually did.

He entered parliament in 2016, having previously been an agribusiness banker.

Littleproud said after the vote that “a sensible centre is where you win elections”. He said “chasing extremities” would not win.

He hailed having “two bright, articulate” women in the Nationals leadership team.

Suburbs and small businesses are Dutton priorities

Dutton stressed he wanted to send “a clear message to those in the suburbs”, and said policies would be targeted to small and micro businesses. But, asked about the “teal” seats, he said, “I am not giving up on any seats”.

While the Liberals would work with big business, Dutton said these days a lot of chief executives were closer to other parties than to the Liberals. He lamented that these business leaders, unlike years ago, were not advocating for tax reform and industrial relations reform.

“I think we are a poorer country for that. I think many of them are probably scared to step up because they are worried of an onslaught by Twitter.

"I hope that we can continue to work with them but I need them to work, to speak up on many policies, not just social policies but economic, not just climate change.”

On China, on which Dutton has taken a strong and uncompromising position in government, he said: “The issue of China under President Xi is the biggest issue our country will face in our lifetimes.”

Read more: View from The Hill: Peter Dutton faces his own 'long march'

Dutton again acknowledged he had made a mistake in boycotting the Rudd government’s apology to Indigenous people and particularly the stolen generations.

“I worked in Townsville. I remember going to many domestic violence instances, particularly involving Indigenous communities, and for me at the time I believed that the apology should be given when the problems were resolved and the problems are not resolved.”

Asked about the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, he said the Liberals would look at what Labor proposed but said he wanted the symbolic policies on Indigenous affairs to be accompanied by practical responses, on issues such as child abuse.

Support for anti-corruption body

He also said he favoured an anti-corruption commission: “I believe in transparency.”

Dutton once again said there was more to him than the public image. “I’m not going to change but I want people to see the entire person I am.”

Ley said her message to the women of Australia was: “We hear you. We’re listening. We’re talking. And we are determined to earn back your trust.”

This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra.

Read more:

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting