Explainer: changing party leaders

The Nationals party elected the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP as their leader.

Jun 21, 2021

At the Nationals party meeting on Monday the party voted for a spill motion, meaning that any member could run for the leadership. Mr Joyce was successfully elected, beating the only other candidate the Hon Michael McCormack MP who has led the Nationals since August 2018.

This is Mr Joyce’s second time as Nationals leader. Under the agreement between the Liberal Party and the Nationals, the leader of the Nationals also serves as the Deputy Prime Minister.

Do the Australian people have a say when parties change their leaders?

No. Australians vote for representatives of their state or territory in the Senate and for their electorate the House of Representatives. It is then up to the members of each party in the Parliament to choose their leader.

Do all parties choose their leaders the same way?

It is up to each party to decide how they choose their leaders, but all parties decide by giving their members a vote. The Australian Labor Party is currently the only party in Parliament who also includes members of its party outside Parliament when voting for a leader. However, there are some differences in the way parties manage the elections for their leader, such as different methods of initiating leadership spills.

Why might a party change its leader?

In the past different party members have given a range of reasons for voting to change leaders. These include disagreements with policy decisions, unhappiness in how the leader was managing their party or concern that the party would not perform well at an election.