Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) speaks to Barnaby Joyce (C) as Warren Truss sits next to them. Reuters/Lukas Coch/AAP

Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has been elected the new leader of the Nationals, after former party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss confirmed Thursday he would be retiring to the backbench.

Joyce, MP for New England, was voted in on Thursday evening and sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia the same night.

Senator Fiona Nash, who was up against six other candidates, was nominated as his second in command.

Joyce, who entered parliament in 2005, has made headlines in the past for his controversial views. As the SBS reports, the “social conservative” crossed the floor 19 times under the Howard coalition government, and was a vocal opponent to Telstra’s privatisation.

Most recently, his threats to euthanise Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s dogs - Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo – after they were brought into the country illegally, have raised his profile overseas, including a mention on a John Oliver skit.

Although Truss admits Joyce will be a very different leader, he has expressed his confidence in the 48-year-old.

“It’s time to go”: Warren Truss

Having served in politics for 26 years and as Nationals’ chief for eight years, Truss said in a speech in parliament on Thursday that his choice to take over as party leader from Mark Vaile in 2007 was a reluctant one.

“When I became leader in 2007, nobody wanted the job, including me. I am pleased to say that now things are different and everyone wants the job,” he said.

“Now that I'm numbered amongst the oldest, I think it's time to go."

Truss was appointed as the nation’s deputy PM after the Coalition won the 2013 election. He said in Thursday’s speech that he hopes he will not be the last person “with a limited education who comes from one of the poorest electorates in the country” to rise to the top levels of government.

"I came from a small farming district and went to a very small state school, and I had the privilege now to become Deputy Prime Minister of our country...I want to thank the people of Australia for the opportunity that they have given me to serve in this regard. I'll take away many happy memories and I hope that people may be kind enough to recognise that I have made something of a contribution towards public life in this country."

Cabinet reshuffle set for this weekend

As Nationals’ new leader, Joyce will now have to renegotiate the coalition agreement with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The coalition is a formal alliance of the Liberal Party, Liberal National Party and the National Party – all of which are centre-right political parties.

Meanwhile, PM Turnbull will launch a cabinet reshuffle this weekend, prompted by the change in the Nationals leadership, as well as the exit of Trade Minister Andrew Robb from politics.

Robb, who secured the Trans-Pacific Partnership and FTAs with China, Japan and Korea, said he hopes to move to the private sector and “assist the cause of mental health” and the “acceptance and the progress in the mental health space”.

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