Peter Ryan (politician)

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Peter Ryan
Peter Ryan.jpg
26th Deputy Premier of Victoria
In office
2 December 2010 – 4 December 2014
PremierTed Baillieu
Denis Napthine
Preceded byRob Hulls
Succeeded byJames Merlino
Victorian Minister for Police
In office
2 December 2010 – 13 March 2013
PremierTed Baillieu
Denis Napthine
Preceded byJames Merlino
Succeeded byKim Wells
Member of the Victorian Parliament
for Gippsland South
In office
3 October 1992 – 2 February 2015
Preceded byTom Wallace
Succeeded byDanny O'Brien
Personal details
Born (1950-10-30) 30 October 1950 (age 68)
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Political partyThe Nationals
Websitepersonal website

Peter Julian Ryan (born 30 October 1950) is a former Australian politician who was leader of The Nationals in Victoria from 1999 to 2014. He represented the electoral district of Gippsland South from 1992 to 2015, and from 2010 to 2014 was the Deputy Premier of Victoria as well as the Minister for Rural and Regional Development. In addition, Ryan was the Minister for Police from 2010 to 2013.

Early years[edit]

Ryan was born and raised in Lockington, Northern Victoria. He was educated in Shepparton where he graduated from high school in 1968. He went on to study Law at RMIT. Ryan moved to Sale during 1974 to work for a local law firm Warren, Graham and Murphy. He became partner in 1976 and managing partner in 1989. After an 18-year career in the law, Ryan was preselected as the National Party's candidate for Gippsland South in 1991 and elected to the Victorian Parliament as the Member for Gippsland South in 1992, replacing Tom Wallace. Ryan was a member of several parliamentary committees between 1992 and 1999.

Leadership ascension[edit]

Rural discontent led to a shock defeat for the Kennett Government in 1999, with large swings in rural and regional Victoria to the Labor Party delivering a minority Labor Government with support from three independents. Kennett left the parliament shortly after the election, and The Nationals leader Pat McNamara resigned as leader in December 1999. Ryan was elected as leader unopposed. One of his first acts as leader was to tear up the Coalition agreement and move the Nationals to the crossbenches as a separate party.[1] The Liberals and Nationals have historically had a strained relationship in Victoria; while they are Coalition at the federal level, they sat separately for most of the second half of the 20th century in Victoria until renewing the Coalition at state level in 1990.

Opposition years[edit]

The Nationals remained in opposition from 1999 to 2010. In mid-2000, McNamara left the parliament and his hitherto safe seat of Benalla was also lost to the ALP. At the 2002 election, the Nationals received 4.3% of the primary vote, maintaining their seven seats in the Assembly and four seats in the Council; the combined total of eleven was the minimum required to maintain Third Party status.[2] However, they did manage to win back Benalla despite the ALP landslide; the only seat the ALP lost at that election.

However, the Nationals were steadily re-defining themselves as a party distinct from the Liberals. Soon after Ryan took over the leadership, they rebranded themselves as the "VicNats." Ryan uttered several sharp criticisms of the Liberals' most prominent figures, particularly their no-tolls policy on the Melbourne Eastlink freeway[3] and on former leader Robert Doyle's remarks that the Liberals were twenty seats from government, a statement that assumed that the Nationals would support a Liberal government.[4]

Relations soured further at the beginning of 2006 when Senator Julian McGauran defected from the Nationals to the Liberals.[5] Federal party leader Mark Vaile accused McGauran of betrayal. Ryan was equally unsparing, saying of McGauran, "People treat deserters exactly in the way that this fellow will be treated and reviled for the rest of his days. And justifiably so."[6]

In 2003 the party was re-branded as The Nationals along with the federal party, although the official name remains the National Party of Australia.[7]

2006 election[edit]

Many commentators had stated that The Nationals were facing electoral oblivion at the 2006 election, especially when rumours emerged of a possible preference deal between the Liberals and the ALP which would favour the Liberals against the Nationals, and the ALP against the Greens.[8] Changes to the Upper House were also likely to slash the Nationals from four members to just one. Ten days prior to the election, Ryan gave what one commentator described the "speech of the campaign thus far" when he lambasted the major parties for their planned actions.

"Welcome", he said, "to Survivor Spring Street", an exercise in reality politics in which "associations that in some instances have been developed for years, amount to an absolute hill of beans", one in which the support offered through long-standing political partnership "is thrown back in your face".[9]

The Nationals went on to increase their primary vote to 5.17%, winning two seats in the Assembly which were offset by two losses in the Legislative Council (the upper house).[10] One notable victory was in Mildura, where Peter Crisp defeated the incumbent Russell Savage (one of the three independents who had removed the Nationals from power in 1999), an event which Ryan described as "an impossible dream".[11]

Premier Steve Bracks resigned unexpectedly in July 2007. Unlike the Liberal leader, Ted Baillieu, Ryan commended Bracks on his parliamentary career and thanked him for his professionalism.[12] This action is in step with what one commentator describes as "an unprecedented warm relationship with the state Labor Government", which includes reciprocating support for committee chairs.[13]


In February 2008 Ryan announced at a joint news conference with Baillieu that the Victorian Nationals and Liberals would join in a new coalition agreement.[14] As part of the arrangement, Baillieu allocated five posts in his shadow cabinet to Nationals. Both parties agreed to hold joint party meetings, develop joint policies, abolish three-cornered contests (in all but very exceptional circumstances) and run joint Upper House tickets in the non-metropolitan Regions.[15] Ryan became the Shadow Minister for Regional and Rural Development and the Shadow Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade.[16] Following the summer bushfires of 2009, Ryan was appointed Shadow Minister for Bushfire Response by the Coalition.[17]

Deputy Premier of Victoria[edit]

Ryan contested the 2010 election as the alternative Deputy Premier, as is customary in a non-Labor Coalition. The 2010 election saw the narrow defeat of the John Brumby Labor government, and Ryan was sworn in as Deputy Premier, Minister for Police and Minister for Rural and Regional Development alongside the rest of the Baillieu government on 2 December. The Nationals at the 2010 election under Ryan's leadership won the seat of Gippsland East from an Independent, boosting the Nationals Legislative Assembly representation from 9 to 10.

In a cabinet reshuffle following the replacement of Baillieu with Denis Napthine as Premier, Ryan dropped the Police portfolio and took on the portfolio of State Development.

After the Napthine Coalition government's defeat at the 2014 state election, Ryan stepped down as leader of the Nationals in Victoria, and was succeeded by Peter Walsh.[18] At that election, the Nationals suffered a two-seat swing in the Legislative Assembly and a one-seat swing in the Legislative Council, dropping them one seat below official status in Parliament.

On 2 February 2015, Ryan announced his resignation from parliament, which triggered a by-election in his electorate of Gippsland South.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Ryan is married to Trish and has three children.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Chris Johnston – Attack the best defence for Ryan. Thanks, CiceroThe Age, 27 November 2006
  2. ^ Victorian Electoral Commission – 2002 Election Results Archived 17 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Nick Lenaghan Opposition splits on tollway
  4. ^ Jason Dowling State Nationals send warning to Doyle, The Age, 29 January 2006
  5. ^ Liberals accept McGauran The Herald Sun, 3 February 2006
  6. ^ PM denies Liberals poached McGauran The Age, 24 January 2006
  7. ^ Party Website – History of The Nationals Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Paul Austin – Nats 'will retaliate' on preferencesThe Age, 7 November 2006
  9. ^ Paul Austin – The preferences fallout: Peter Ryan plays 'Survivor of Spring Street'The Age, 16 November 2006
  10. ^ Victorian Electoral Commission – 2006 Election Results Archived 24 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Chris Johnston – Attack the best defence for Ryan. Thanks, CiceroThe Age,27 November 2006
  12. ^ Steve Bracks Resigns Archived 25 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine – Comments by Baillieu and Ryan, 28 July 2007
  13. ^ Jason Dowling – Wanna be in my gang?The Age, 4 March 2007
  14. ^ David Rood – Libs, Nats revive coalitionThe Age, 11 February 2008
  15. ^ Media Release – Liberal Party and The Nationals agree to form Coalition in Victoria[permanent dead link] – 13 February 2008
  16. ^ Coalition Shadow Cabinet Archived 11 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Savage, Alison (4 December 2014). "Peter Walsh takes over National Party leadership with new MP as deputy". ABC News. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Vic Nationals MP Peter Ryan retires". 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Tom Wallace
Member for Gippsland South
Succeeded by
Danny O'Brien
Political offices
Preceded by
Rob Hulls
Deputy Premier of Victoria
Succeeded by
James Merlino
Preceded by
James Merlino
Minister for Police
Succeeded by
Kim Wells
Party political offices
Preceded by
Pat McNamara
Leader of the National Party in Victoria
Succeeded by
Peter Walsh