Darren Chester was yesterday a casualty of a federal cabinet reshuffle sparked by Barnaby Joyce’s return as Nationals leader.
Mr Chester, the Federal Member for Gippsland, was replaced as the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel by Andrew Gee.
“I have been incredibly humbled by the support expressed both publicly and privately in recent days by veterans’ organisations and individuals,” Mr Chester said.
“There was still plenty of work to be done, but that task will fall to the incoming minister.
“I urge the ex-service community to provide the same constructive feedback, practical advice and input that my team has benefited from.
“It has been the greatest honour and privilege of my working life to spend time with you and represent your interests within the federal government.”
The decision comes despite calls from members of the veterans’ community for stability in the portfolio ahead of the Royal Commission into veterans suicides.
It is the second time Mr Chester, 51, has been dumped from the federal cabinet.
He held the role of Minister for Infrastructure and Transport from February 2016 to December 2017 and was the Minister for Regional Development from October to December 2017.
Mr Chester said despite the disappointment of the news, he remained committed to serving his electorate and thanked his family for their unwavering support.
“I love Gippsland, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
“To my wife Julie and my four beautiful children. Ministerial responsibility takes hours away from family life and the biggest benefit of being sacked from cabinet for the second time is that we get to spend more time together in the place we love.”
Mr Chester will join deposed leader Michael McCormack on the backbench as Mr Joyce promoted one of his great allies, Senator Bridget McKenzie.
Senator McKenzie returns to cabinet 18 months after she quit due to the sports rorts saga to take on the role as Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education as well as Drought and Emergency Management.