Grassroots National Party members have affirmed their confidence in Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, convincingly voting down a motion to dis-endorse him as the party’s candidate in the next election.
At a special meeting of the Sale branch on Thursday night, the dis-endorsement motion was defeated 23 votes to two.
The motion had been moved and seconded, but laid on the table, at a meeting last month following internal discontent over Mr Chester’s handling of the same-sex marriage issue.
State Director of The Nationals, Jenny Hammett said a second motion was adopted unanimously at the Sale meeting which recorded full support for Mr Chester’s endorsement, “noting his loyalty, contribution and tireless work for The Nationals”.
Mr Chester now considers the issue resolved.
“I would like to thank The Nationals members for their ongoing support and vote of confidence as we work together to deliver the best possible results for Gippsland,” he said.
“The grassroots members have shown we will remain united, even when we disagree on a difficult issue, and not let individuals divide us.”
In June, Mr Chester announced he would vote in a favour of same-sex marriage if allowed a conscience vote on the issue, saying it would send a message of respect, tolerance and acceptance to same-sex attracted people in country areas who were feeling isolated.
A conscience vote is now off the table following a Coalition party room meeting last week, with supporters losing two-to-one.
The shift from his original view that marriage was between a man and a woman sparked criticism from some grassroots members that Mr Chester had not properly consulted them.
Prior to the 2013 election he publicly stated he was unsure how he would vote on the issue.
Sale branch member John Buxton said he was not at the Thursday night meeting due to another engagement in Melbourne, but had he attended, he would have voted in favour of the dis-endorsement motion.
“My view is that this is not about Darren Chester, it’s about membership and the grassroots,” Mr Buxton said.
“The community’s crying out for courageous leaders who can see the big picture and understand the importance of working up policy positions from the grassroots.”