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New Nationals leader wants to pursue 'constructive' opposition

Politics

Nationals leader David Littleproud says he will run a constructive opposition as the party aims to keep regional Australians in the government’s sights.

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Littleproud, the MP for the country Queensland seat of Maranoa, said the incoming leadership was best placed to take back government at the 2025 election but he would still draw on the experience of his predecessor, Barnaby Joyce.

“This isn’t a reflection on the achievements of Barnaby Joyce in any way, shape or form. This is just about who was prepared to lead in 2025 and not have to shift leadership will shift teams halfway through (the term),” he told AAP.

“We wanted to have continuity from today, to have a stable leadership team right through, to be able to also have a team around that we’ll take towards 2025 in terms of the frontbench and we thought that was important.”

NSW senator Perin Davey was elected deputy during the marathon two-and-a-half-hour partyroom meeting on Monday, edging out NSW MP Kevin Hogan and Victorian MP Anne Webster.

Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie will remain in her role as Nationals leader in the Senate.

Littleproud said the Nationals would continue fighting for regional Australia to make sure it got its fair share from the government.

“The prime minister has made it clear he intends to engage with me. I want to be constructive. Otherwise the people I represent get nothing. That’s not the right thing,” he said.

“I want to make sure we get our fair share. If we don’t, you’ll hear from me.”

McKenzie attacked Labor for not focusing enough on regional Australia.

“We’ve got to get on with the business of holding this new government to account because if what we saw through the election campaign is anything to go by, (Anthony Albanese) doesn’t care what happens outside capital cities,” she told Sky News.

“We’ve seen it on a range of policy fronts, so we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re up for the challenge.”

But it appears the coalition will face more internal divisions on climate policy, with McKenzie saying she “couldn’t see any scenario” where the Nationals would agree to Labor’s target of 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.

Moderate Liberal MPs have encouraged the coalition to adopt a more ambitious emissions-reduction target after climate change played out as a key election issue in inner-city seats where the Liberals suffered their greatest losses.

While the Liberals and Nationals would need to remain in coalition to be a viable alternative government, neither party needed to compromise on its core values, Littleproud said.

“We respect the fact we can’t win government by ourselves and the Liberals can’t win government by themselves, so a strong coalition is important,” he said.

“But respecting each other’s values and principles is important in achieving that. If we do that, I’m sure we’ll have a very strong alternative to the current government.”

Littleproud has had initial discussions with newly elected Liberal leader Peter Dutton about the cabinet carve-up.

The Nationals are believed to be pushing for an extra spot at the table given the party’s increased representation in the coalition. It had five cabinet members in the previous parliament.

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