David Littleproud is battered but not bruised after being ousted from his role as agriculture minister following the Coalition’s wipe-out, saying he will be the first to offer insight to his Labor successor for the betterment of industry. Mr Littleproud — now at home in Clifton where he is the Maranoa MP — said he was shocked by the scale of the loss as a teal wave of independents wiped the Coalition’s chances of holding government. Labor was poised to claim a majority government this week but could form a minority government with the Greens and crossbench if it falls short. In an unorthodox move, Mr Littleproud said he would not be “confrontational” to the new agriculture minister initially and would be the first to offer insight and “technical knowledge” to his Labor successor. “There is a lot of technical corporate knowledge you need to gather, especially when you come from a party that is not traditionally attuned to Australian agriculture,” Mr Littleproud said. “When we find out who the agriculture minister is, I will be reaching out as soon as I possibly can.” In an exclusive interview with Countryman, the deputy leader for the Nationals revealed he had “mentally prepared” for a potential loss but was disappointed and shocked by the “scale of it”. “Obviously there was a mood for change… we’d been there nine years and the Australian people wanted to try something different,” Mr Littleproud said. “We will hold them (Labor) to account. People want leadership in agriculture and more broadly.” While the Nationals kept all of their 16 Federal seats, the party suffered a swing against it which was in part driven by controversial comments from Senator Matt Canavan about net zero being “dead”. The Nationals last year signed up to Scott Morrison’s net zero by 2050 target in returns for billions of dollars in infrastructure spending and an extra Cabinet position, but vetoed any chance of upgrading to Labor’s 2030 target. When asked about whether the Nationals should have pushed for a more ambitious climate target, Mr Littleproud said he believed the party’s policy was “eminently sensible”. “While we have to accept the ideology and the views of those in metropolitan Australia … it is normally the regions that have to pay for it,” Mr Littleproud said. “We were sensible and didn’t get involved in the extremities of it. Some of my colleagues still are and that’s their view... but you have to understand your place in the world.” Mr Littleproud said he was frightened the Greens were on track to gain the balance of power in the Senate, where they foreshadowed using their numbers to push Labor into banning all live exports, cutting fuel tax credits and stripping 450 gigalitres of water from irrigation communities for the environment. Mr Littleproud said he believed the Coalition’s world-first $66m Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship package —which provides farmers with a passive income stream from carbon and biodiversity projects — should be retained. “I worry about what could be imposed in terms of land tenure… I hope the Greens and the Labor Party leave agriculture alone,” he said. Mr Littleproud — previously touted as a potential future leader of the Nationals — said he would be interested in being shadow agriculture minister but wouldn’t be “too picky”. The Nationals were expected to meet on Monday to determine shadow portfolio roles, with Mr Joyce’s future as Nationals leader reportedly in doubt after the election defeat. A former agribusiness banker, Mr Littleproud said he never expected to be propelled into ministry after just 18 months in Parliament in December 2017. He was first elected to the House of Representatives for Maranoa in Queensland in 2016, holding the sprawling southern Queensland seat in what is regarded as the safest government seat in the State. Mr Littleproud was elevated in a Cabinet reshuffle by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in December 2017 but lost the position to Bridget McKenzie after the 2019 election. He reassumed the role of agriculture minister in February 2020 when Ms McKenzie resigned after the infamous sports rort scandal, when she was widely accused of pork-barrelling. Mr Littleproud said he hoped Labor would not “tear down” the “sensible policies” the Coalition put in place. “There were really only two announcements (from Labor) during the campaign — removing the agriculture visa… and the phasing out of live sheep exports,” he said. “That is a retrograde step that has detrimental animal welfare outcomes because you will see this market continue… particularly in countries that don’t have refrigeration in supply chains or homes, or who aren’t going to change thousands of years of culture just because we want them to. “The sheep that will go into these countries will come from countries that don’t have the same animal welfare standards we do… that made sure we had a social license to operate.” During his initial time as agriculture minister, shocking footage of sheep dying on the Awassi Express was aired on 60 Minutes and sent the nation’s live sheep trade into disarray. In the fallout, Mr Littleproud oversaw vast changes to shipping regulations for live sheep carriers travelling to the Middle East which he said saved the industry and changed its culture. He said this was one of his proudest achievements during his time as agriculture minister, labelling reform to the industry as “tough love” and essential for the industry to continue. He spearheaded an independent review of Australia’s live export industry by Philip Moss, established an independent Inspector-General of live animal exports and introduced the northern summer moratorium barring live sheep exports during the northern hemisphere summer. “I know the industry was cranky at the time, but if I hadn’t put those reforms in place we wouldn’t have an industry at all,” Mr Littleproud said. “The Australian public has confidence in the industry to an extent where I think some of the regulations we have put in place could… be relaxed… because of the regulatory maturity.” He also launched an overhaul of the wool industry and was scathing of Australian Wool Innovation’s corporate governance, offered a scathing assessment of his own department and reached a bi-partisan deal to secure the future of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. “It has been a great honour to be the Australian agriculture minister… I know I didn’t get it right all the time and I’ve had to give some tough love,” he said. In a surprising dig at industry, Mr Littleproud revealed he felt “alone” in his attacks on the Australian Workers’ Union which “demonised” farmers by urging countries not to sign up to the Ag Visa. “Every time the AWU attacked farmers, the only one out defending farmers’ honour and defending the fact we needed this visa... was me,” he said. “That is the only poor reflection (on industry), I would say. The only person that was prepared to go out and publicly fight the AWU and defend the honour of farmers was me… I found that distressing.” Mr Littleproud was born and raised in Chinchilla and has three sons: Tom, Hugh and Harry. He said one positive to come out of the crushing defeat was more time to spend with his family.