Andrew Broad, the high profile former president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, will seek a career in federal politics representing the state's biggest electorate, after Nationals MP John Forrest announced he would retire as the member for Mallee at this year's federal election.
A farmer, qualified pilot, former member of a rock band and youngest ever president of the VFF, Mr Broad confirmed to Fairfax Media he would be a candidate in the National Party's pre-selection contest for the vast seat in the state's north west.
The 37-year-old, who farms about 1150 hectares just outside of the Mallee electorate at Bridgewater, said his time leading the state's biggest farm lobby group had given him "a good grounding". And he said his time as a farmer, he bought his first farm as a 22-year-old, had given him a solid understanding of both farming and small business issues.
Asked why he was seeking preselection, he said: "My wife and I have watched, like everyone else, with a bit of disdain the Australian Parliament at the moment. I don't think Australia is being well served by a hung parliament. Also, if you look across at the Parliament, there is a very limited number of people with hands-on agricultural experience. And issues of food security, issues of positioning ourselves in the Asia-Pacific region, and also issues of country people getting a fair go (are important)."
Mr Broad said Australia needed to become "more of a can-do country again. We're just regulating ourselves out of competitiveness and there's some things I'd like to change."
Improving services in Mallee, which covers about 74,000 square kilometres and includes places such as Mildura, Horsham, Warracknabeal and Kerang, would be an important goal.
If preselected and then elected, Mr Broad said he would bring strong character to politics, moulded by years of farming. "Having farmed in droughts and then floods, it builds one's capacity to stare down a difficult situation and confront it. I'm not easily pushed around, I'm not easily dissuaded from an argument if I think it's the right thing and worth fighting for," he said.
Mr Broad said he and his wife Rachel had bought a house in Mildura, and they planned to live there if he won preselection.
It is not the first time Mr Broad, a member of the Nationals for about eight years, has sought preselection for the party. He sought senate preselection prior to the 2010 poll, but was unsuccessful.
If Mr Broad makes the transition to politics, he would be following his three immediate predecessors into politics. There are now three former VFF presidents in the Victorian Coalition Government. Nationals MP Peter Walsh is the member for Swan Hill and the Minister for Water, Agriculture and Food Security, while Paul Weller holds the seat of Rodney for the Nationals and Simon Ramsay represents the Liberals in the upper house seat of Western Victoria.
Mr Forrest's retirement will come after 20 years as the member for Mallee. Christine Ferguson, the Nationals federal president, praised Mr Forrest for his "outstanding" contribution.
"John was first elected in 1993 and has served The Nationals with distinction ever since. John has personified The Nationals motto of 'local champion' working tirelessly in the best interests of his electorate since the day he was first elected," she said.