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Analysis: The top contenders to replace Barnaby Joyce face the task of restoring trust

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Mr Solid and reliable has been the Nationals' usual preference for leadership style.

They dumped that approach to pick Barnaby Joyce when the steady Warren Truss retired in 2016.

But two years on from becoming leader, and just months after jubilantly striding into Parliament having won a by-election sparked by his dual citizenship, Mr Joyce is gone.

The junior Coalition partner did not expect to be finding a replacement so soon. And until a few months ago — when that surprise New Zealand citizenship emerged — the Nationals did not even contemplate a succession plan.

They are now scrambling to replace their brash leader, and whoever that is will represent a big swing back to the traditional style of Nationals leadership, exemplified by Mr Truss as well as past leaders like John Anderson.

Steady will be back.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack is the favourite.

Michael McCormack sits between Barnaby Joyce and Warren Truss in the House of Representatives.

He holds a safe seat and a spot in the ministry, but his public profile is drastically below Mr Joyce's level of brand recognition.

But after the dual citizenship crisis swept through the Nationals like a nasty virus last year, then Mr Joyce's private life became public, low-key and mild-mannered may be preferable.

The ABC understands David Gillespie, who holds the New South Wales seat of Lyne, will also push to be leader.

David Gillespie delivers maiden speech

Dr Gillespie faces the same profile problem as every other contender.

But he certainly qualifies as steady and reputable — he was a gastroenterologist before entering Parliament.

He is fighting a High Court case over the ownership of a post office agency, which Labor argues is a potential breach of the constitution.

Legal processes on that one are dragging on, but Dr Gillespie does not believe it should stop him becoming leader.

David Littleproud has also been discussed as a potential contender.

The member for Maranoa has been in Parliament for less than two years, but he was promoted to Cabinet as Agriculture Minister, from the backbench, late last year.

One Nationals MP with a reasonably strong profile is former Cabinet minister Darren Chester, but he was dumped from the frontbench to make way for Mr Littleproud in December's reshuffle.

That demotion was a symbol of the turmoil that the next leader will have to start to repair.

Mr Chester has ruled out running for the leadership.

"In the interest of a smooth transition, it is not my intention to contest the leadership," he said.

He announced he would back Mr McCormack.

"Michael is the most experienced House of Representatives Minister that the Nationals have in the Parliament, and he has the passion, enthusiasm and determination to deliver for all regional Australians," Mr Chester said.

Darren Chester sits in the House of Representatives.

Rebuilding projects often drag on and bring tensions of their own.

The renovation of the Coalition will kick off with the leadership contenders making their case over the next few days.

Loyalties are already divided between those who dug in behind Mr Joyce and those who had been pushing for a fresh start.

Managing the outspoken characters in the party like backbencher George Christensen and Senator Barry O'Sullivan will be a key side project for the party and its new leadership team.

That tricky task is to balance their right to voice some at-times controversial views with the need to bring a new sense of Coalition calm.

Liberal confidence in the smaller party has been badly damaged.

The new leader faces the task of restoring that trust.

Liberals will be scrutinising who gets promoted in the upcoming reshuffle as the first sign of how smooth the transition will be.

Original Article

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