Deputy Victorian Nationals leader Steph Ryan to quit politics

Deputy Victorian Nationals leader Steph Ryan will announce her retirement from state politics on Wednesday, citing family reasons.

Ryan, 36, was elected to the Victorian parliament eight years ago and was immediately elevated to the deputy position of the junior Coalition partner. She was expected to eventually take over the leadership of the Victorian Nationals.

Victorian Nationals deputy leader Steph Ryan will quit politics in November. Credit:Eddie Jim

Ryan, who is pregnant with her second child, told The Age she was quitting politics to spend more time with her family.

“With a little one at home and another on the way, it is time for me to seek a job that offers greater flexibility,” the Euroa MP said.

“Serving my community as the first member for Euroa has been the honour of a lifetime. The greatest pleasure of this job has been the opportunity it has afforded me to meet everyday people doing extraordinary things.

“I’m also immensely proud to have served as the deputy leader of the Nationals for the past eight years and to be the first woman in the party’s history to be elected to a leadership position, state or federal. I want to thank our leader Peter Walsh and my colleagues for their friendship and unwavering support over that time.”

Ryan said her community deserved an MP who could “devote 150 per cent of their time and energy” representing them, and she could no longer provide that commitment.

“In reality, that means someone who can give [themselves] freely on weeknights and weekends and that, at this stage in my life, is not compatible with my wish to be more present for my family,” she said.

“I leave my role firm in the belief that the Nationals are as important to country communities today as they were 100 years ago. Country people need a party that works together as a team to represent the unique challenges we face.”

Ryan held the shadow portfolios of water, public transport and roads, and gaming and liquor regulation.

The senior MP’s departure will come as a blow to the Victorian Coalition, which lost several senior MPs during the 2018 election and has been struggling in the polls just five months out from the state election.

Several senior Victorian MPs from across the political divide have announced their retirement from politics recently.

In 2020, Ryan told The Age she was cognisant of the reputational damage the federal party’s stance – and internal bickering – on climate change was having on the Victorian brand. State Nationals leader Peter Walsh has been at the forefront of distancing the state party from the federal Nationals Party.

“Rural and regional Victoria is on the front line of seeing the impacts of climate change, and our communities are really mindful of what that means for us in the future,” she said in 2020.

“The motion we passed at last year’s [2019] state conference was basically acknowledging the impacts of climate change on our communities and calling for policy development around that, which we’re engaged in doing and will do over the next couple of years to make sure that we do have a platform to take to the next state election, because it is a pressing issue for our communities on a whole range of fronts.”

The Nationals have been facing challenges on several fronts: the changing demographics of country Victoria, rural independents who have found a formula for unpicking the party’s decades-old grip on seats, the difficulty of staying relevant in growing regional cities, and the instability that has dogged their federal colleagues.

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