Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester (screen shot via YouTube).

Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence reveals the machinations at play behind Darren Chester being overlooked as a contender for leader of the Nationals.

DID DARREN CHESTER'S "INTERVENTION" with Barnaby Joyce set the disgraced former Deputy Prime Minister on the unsealed road to self-destruction?

And did that intervention lead a furious Joyce to retaliate by dumping Chester from the Coalition Cabinet, nicking the coveted high-profile infrastructure and transport portfolio for himself?

Chester is that rare creature — highly regarded by most sides of the political prism for his hard work, diligence, passion and championing of infrastructure and transport, especially in regional Australia. 

He coulda and shoulda been a contender for this morning's Nationals ballot for the party's leadership and deputy prime minister role but former journalist, Member for Riverina and Minister for Veterans Affairs Michael McCormack won the tarnished crown, despite a challenge and lecture on values from the perennial self-righteous and dangerous buffoon, Member for Dawson George Christensen.

And McCormack was elected, with Joyce's blessing. Who knows the measure of that?

But it's also payback time. Yes, "geopolitics" is a factor — the Nats can't have two Victorians in the top jobs.


Independent Australia has been told by a Nationals Party member that before the New England by-election last year, the Member for Gippsland had a discussion with Joyce about the burgeoning disquiet and ramifications upon their party's reputation and its senior Coalition partner, about the then Nationals Leader's adulterous affair with his former media adviser, Vikki Campion, now pregnant with the couple's child — a boy. 

But there was malice in "punterland" and beyond.

Mr Joyce apparently did not take too kindly to the popular Gippsland MP's intervention and gratuitous advice, couching his response in more robust language, with much repetition of words starting with the letters "f" and "c".

However, Joyce, we are told, calmed down and appeared to take in Chester's advice to come clean publicly about his personal situation. 


IA understands that it was only after much soul-searching and counsel with close colleagues, including the incumbent Deputy Leader of the Nationals, fellow Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie, that Chester, had a "quiet word" with Joyce telling him a few home truths about what was being said and written about him, including in this exclusive by IA's Ross Jones

A former journalist and marketing consultant, Chester knew that the perceived betrayal of Joyce's wife Natalie and four daughters was damaging the Nationals brand, and in conflict with their peddling of what constitutes so-called "family values" — displaying the usual hypocritical affinity with across the political board neo arch-conservatives like Christensen, Senator Cory Bernardi, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and, indeed, Bridget McKenzie herself. 

Bear in mind and bare in mind, they all knew of Joyce's adultery — hardly an uncommon pastime in the era of tinderbox politics and everyday life. But mum's the word when one of your own is pregnant out of wedlock while one of the parties is still in wedlock and a Catholic. 

And what's more, has the cheek to moralise against same-sex marriage and parenthood. Oh my, my.

It's the old do-as-I-say thingy — not do-as-I-do. 

There is also another reason why some of Chester's party colleagues didn't support him as leader. A couple of years ago, he famously broke rank to support same-sex marriage. 

Mr McCormack, on the other hand, albeit in 1993, famously wrote a column in Wagga Wagga's Daily Advertiser decrying homosexuals and calling them “sordid” and blaming them for the spread of AIDS.

McCormack has apologised for his views on several occasions and asserts he has changed. But now he holds such high public office he will be held to his apologia big time and be expected to do more than merely talk — especially insofar as the health, welfare and support services in rural, Indigenous and isolated regional LGBT+ and wider communities are concerned. 

In the Nats Deputy Leader Bridget McKenzie, we have yet another politician who, like Tony Abbott, has a sibling who is gay and yet is against same-sex marriage. In fact, her gay brother, Alastair McKenzie confronted her on the ABC's Q&A program, in 2016.


The anachronistic legacy of both McCormack and McKenzie are insidious and at odds with the wider community. The Nationals had a chance to refresh both their image and platform — and could have done that with Chester. Instead, they have resorted to default position. 

The press conference fronted by McCormack, this morning, was comical in its choreography. 

Barnaby Joyce, whose red visage was redder than an Uluru sunset and McKenzie's lipstick, was symbolically positioned in the back row so that his face was not always visible on camera. So staged. 

In recent days, Joyce's position – even as a backbencher – has become more untenable as he faces allegations of "sexual harassment and/or sexual misconduct", according to lawyer Emma Salerno who represents Catherine Marriott, a formerWest Australian Rural Woman of the Year.

Joyce has denied the allegations. 

In his banishment, Joyce has promised not to snipe from the sidelines. Yeah, sure. We've heard that before. Did somebody mention Tony Abbott?

It's curious how the Nats and others have, for so long, defended and described Joyce as a good "retail" politician — says a lot about the wholesale tripe and "merchandising" of politics and politicians.

It's a pity we can't get a refund on such discounted but faulty goods.

Key Dates

  • 19 November 2017: Ross Jones article Independent Australia
  • 2 December 2017: New England by-election
  • 7 December 2017: Joyce makes a Parliamentary "confession" on living separately from his wife Natalie while debating against the Same-Sex Marriage Bill. Concedes he's "no saint".
  • 18 December 2017: Darren Chester dumped as minister for infrastructure and transport in "captain's call" by Barnaby Joyce, as Chester had favoured Senator McKenzie as Deputy Nationals Leader over Joyce's mate and fave, Senator Matt Canavan. (Joyce's mistress, Vikki Campion was given a job as a senior adviser to Canavan after she left Joyce's employ, in April 2017.)
  • 21 January 2018: Darren Chester slams Coalition for transparency failure in $1 billion slush fund monies going to marginal, rather than safe seats. He angers some senior and junior Coalition partners. 

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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