Outgoing federal director of the Nationals, Scott Mitchell.
EXPERIENCED Nationals staffer Ben Hindmarsh is set to be named as the party’s new federal director to replace the outgoing Scott Mitchell.
Mr Hindmarsh is currently chief of staff to federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester and is also a former senior adviser to former Victorian Nationals leader and state Deputy Premier and Regional Development minister Peter Ryan.
An announcement on Mr Hindmarsh’s appointment is expected to be made today by Nationals federal president Larry Anthony, following a decision made by the party’s federal management committee this week.
Mr Hindmarsh has a tough assignment, given Mr Mitchell’s record over the past five years running head office, with the Nationals increasing its parliamentary representation significantly during the past two federal election wins.
Mr Mitchell started as federal director in March 2012 but advised members of the federal parliamentary team and other executive members he was stepping down late last month.
The former Young Nationals president has not yet indicated what his next career move will be but it’s understood he’s considering several potential options, including chasing commercial opportunities.
Mr Mitchell came into the federal director’s position in Canberra after a three and a half year stint working as chief of staff to the former WA Nationals leader and Agriculture Minister Terry Reman.
Mr Hindmarsh is due to commence as Nationals federal director in early February, after Mr Mitchell formally steps down from the role.
Mr Chester said he was disappointed that Mr Hindmash had chosen to leave his office, after starting with him following this year’s federal election, having previously worked for Nationals leader and Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce.
But the senior Victorian Nationals MP said the party’s incoming federal director had chosen to leave his office to pursue greater career opportunity.
“I understand (Mr Hindmarsh) has other opportunities and will go on to make a great contribution to our party, in whatever role he undertakes,” he said.
“He has the capacity to build a strong team around him through his calm and competent leadership and his great understanding of issues in regional Australia.
“He’s a seasoned and experienced political operator.”
Mr Chester said Mr Mitchell had helped to build the Nationals at a federal level and would be leaving the party “in good shape”.
“I’m sure he’ll continue to make a major contribution to rural and regional Australia in whatever role he pursues; he has a lot of friends in the Nationals and we wish him well,” he said.
Mr Chester said the federal director played a “critical” part in building party cohesion and helping it grow a stronger representation base for regional Australia.
“The federal director’s role is critical because it serves to bring together the parliamentary team and the grass roots members with a combined focus on winning our existing seats and seeking new opportunities,” he said.
“We’ve achieved significant growth in the last eight years and we’re keen to increase our representation in the federal parliament so we can deliver more for regional Australia.”
The Nationals are likely to pursue opportunities at the next election in Tasmania where overtures have been made to poach former Liberal Senator and Assistant Agriculture Minister and Turnbull minister Richard Colbeck who lost his seat at the last election after being harshly demoted at pre-selection.
The rural-focussed junior Coalition partner is also looking at more serious challenges to potentially claim independent-held rural seats like Indi in Victoria and Kennedy in northern Queensland and those held by Labor, like Richmond in NSW.
However, the Nationals would continue to struggle with no representation in South Australia and in WA with rural seats mostly held by Liberals in those two states.
One option that’s unlikely to be pursued at the next federal poll is the rural seat of Mayo in SA held by Rebekha Sharkie who was elected for the Nick Xenophon Team, after toppling Liberal Jamie Briggs.
The Nationals are an independent party in WA but sources believe the party could have potentially held two positions federally if former leader Brendon Grylls had of ran for the Senate at the last election and former O’Connor MP Tony Crook didn’t resign in 2013.
Mr Crook initially sat on the crossbenches in Canberra after winning his seat at the 2010 election but stepped down after one term, with the sparse rural seat subsequently won by Katanning farmer and hard-working Liberal MP Rick Wilson in 2013 and 2016.
Nationals’ federal president Larry Anthony said Mr Hindmarsh’s experience and energy would be a great asset to the party.
He said the new federal director brings a “rare mix” of experience in senior political administration, policy development and campaigning to the organisation.
“This is a great appointment for the Nationals and, along with the organisational and parliamentary wings of the party, I look forward to working with Ben in the role,” he said.
Mr Joyce said the appointment was important to maintaining the party’s momentum coming out of the recent federal election when it secured its highest number of seats in decades and delivered the critical additional seat to secure majority Coalition government.
He said Mr Hindmarsh had “genuine passion” for the Nationals and for the future of regional Australia that “personally drives and motivates him”.
“I know and work with Ben well,” he said.
“He comes from a New England farming family and he knows the importance of strong regional communities and strong regional economies.”
Mr Anthony and Mr Joyce both paid tribute to Mr Mitchell saying he played a leading role in securing government at the last two federal elections.
“I wish Scott well in the future and sincerely hope he will remain actively involved in the Nationals,” Mr Joyce said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.