Australia’s agriculture sector should soon learn if last night’s changes in National Party leadership will lead the appointment of a new minister for agriculture.
Incumbent Barnaby Joyce is weighing his portfolio options after being elected unopposed to replace retiring Warren Truss as the leader of the National Party and deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
In the same vote Rural Health Minister and National senator for New South Wales Fiona Nash was elected to the position of deputy leader, becoming the first woman to hold the position. In a unique situation in Australian politics, the deputy leadership positions of the Liberal, National and Labor parties are now all held by women.
Mr Joyce now has to choose whether he will retain the Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio, or choose a more senior cabinet portfolio.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now has several positions to fill, including the Infrastructure and Regional Development porffolio vacated by Mr Truss, and the Trade ministry opened by Andrew Robb’s announcement that he will retire before this year’s Federal election.
The Nationals held the important Trade portfolio until the Howard Government lost power in 2007, with the post going to the Liberals through Mr Robb after the coalition regained Government in 2013.
Since then, Mr Robb has secured free-trade deals with Japan, South Korea and China.
Mr Joyce was reportedly coy when asked by media today whether he wanted the Liberals to hand back the Trade portfolio, preferring to leave it to a meeting with his deputy Fiona Nash and Nationals Senate leader Nigel Scullion this afternoon.
“We’ll determine what best suits the people we represent,” Mr Joyce told ABC radio before saying how important commodities were for the regions.
Senator Nash, who is Minister for Rural Health in the outer ministry, will go into cabinet in the coming reshuffle and would be considered a key contender to take over the Agriculture portfolio should Mr Joyce take over the Trade or Infrastructure and Regional Development portfolio.
In his pending reshuffle set to be announced early next week, Mr Turnbull is tipped to promote some of the coalition’s younger talent including NSW MP Angus Taylor and Victorian Dan Tehan to the outer ministry.