Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Warren Truss will announce his retirement from politics today, Fairfax Media reports.
The deputy prime minister’s departure after 26 years in parliament opens the door for agriculture minister and deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce to replace him.
Truss, the minister for infrastructure and regional development, is not likely to leave his current role as deputy PM until next month, having been Nationals leader since 2007. Joyce, a former Queensland senator who switched to the lower house as the MP for New England in NSW in 2013, has made no secret of his ambition for the top job.
Fairfax says that the 67-year-old leader has been hanging on, hoping a rival to Joyce would emerge among the regional party’s 15 lower house and six senate members.
One contender considering throwing his hat into the leadership ring is Riverina MP Michael McCormack, who says he hasn’t been canvassing on the issue, but has been approached by a number of colleagues to run.
Last night trade minister Andrew Robb he will retire at the election later this year after entering parliament in 2004 .
During his brief time as trade minister, the Victoria finalised three significant free trade deals with China, Japan and South Korea.
The former Liberal Party federal director is 64, and says he wants to find a new job.
“I plan to move on to my next career, which will be in some capacity in the private sector. I will leave politics in the comfort of knowing that both the Turnbull government and the Coalition are in great shape,” he said in a statement.
It’s understood that Robb, at the prime minister’s urging, will stay on as trade minister for now, but Turnbull is already facing his second ministerial reshuffle of 2016, with doubts growing over human services minister Stuart Robert, currently under pressure to stand aside over a controversial trip to China when assistant defence minister in 2014.
The Secretary of the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, is investigating whether Robert breached the ministerial code of conduct during the trip and he now faces additional scrutiny after receiving a $40,000 Rolex watch from a Chinese businessman. He kept it, along with former PM Tony Abbott, because he thought it was a fake, declaring it as a gift worth $300 to $500. It was only returned when a colleague pointed out to the MPs that they were real.
Earlier this year, Turnbull was forced to replace Mal Brough who stood aside, pending a police investigation into his role in the downfall of former speaker Peter Slipper, and Jamie Briggs, who resigned as cities minister following inappropriate behaviour during a trip to Hong Kong.