Eyes on tomorrow, not past, in Joyce seat

Local farmer, Tamworth Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Chair of the National Party’s New England electorate council, Russell Webb (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Nanjing Night Net

VOTERS in New England will look to the future, rather than the rear view mirror, to try and move forward, when weighing up their decision between Barnaby Joyce and Tony Windsor at the upcoming federal election.

That’s the view of local farmer, Tamworth Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Chair of the National Party’s New England electorate council, Russell Webb.

Mr Webb spoke to Fairfax Media after Mr Joyce was officially preselected on Saturday after being the only candidate nominated to contest the sparse rural NSW electorate for the party.

He said the New England electoral council were preparing for any eventuality but certainly for what could be a July 2 election “and that’s what we have to do”.

Other candidates would take the field in the high profile local election battle but voters and other observers were watching the big one between Mr Windsor, who held the seat as an independent from 2001 to 2013, and his replacement Mr Joyce.

Mr Windsor will turn 66 this year and retired ahead of the 2013 election citing personal health issues after he supported the ALP to govern in the previous hung parliament.

In contrast, Mr Joyce will turn 49 this month and quit his safe position as a Queensland LNP Senator in anticipation of an election clash with the independent but was denied that opportunity.

However, he eventually turned New England into a safe National’s seat and has been the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister in the current government and in mid-February became party leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Webb believes a clear voter choice exists between the powerful positions Mr Joyce now holds in the current government versus an independent member who would sit on the crossbench in what won’t be a hung parliament and would “have no say and no power whatsoever”.

“The wise choice therefore for any electorate is to try and elect somebody who will be sitting in government and we’ve not only got somebody sitting in government we’ve got a senior minister and the Deputy Prime Minister,” he said.

“Our electorate can be a lot better served by Barnaby than what we’ve had in the past with Tony and that’s not just me saying that; a lot of people are saying that and it’s starting to resonate with people throughout the electorate.

“We’ve seen Tony perform in the past and he’s delivered for the electorate in the ways that he could but we’re not looking at the past now – we’re looking at the future – and really the only one who can really deliver into the future is Barnaby Joyce, as we see it.”

Mr Webb said voters were looking ahead and would decide on issues of the day but also hadn’t forgotten Mr Windsor’s decision to go with ALP in 2010 over the Coalition.

He said the independent MP was traditionally conservative but lost a huge amount of support in New England after he backed the Labor government.

“People haven’t forgotten about that and that will certainly work against him at the next election,” he said.

“Some of that sentiment has softened but it won’t be forgotten by voters.”

Mr Webb said most people in the region also felt Mr Windsor was seeking to re-enter politics “out of spite” rather than to achieve pure policy outcomes.

“That’s the talk you hear around the towns; people are seeing that Tony’s not doing this because he really thinks he can deliver more for the electorate it’s because he doesn’t like the fact that Barnaby’s here and has the Deputy Prime-Ministership and that’s sad,” he said.

“Tony did a lot when he was here but as I say, that was in the past and now we’re looking into the future and most people I talk to think Barnaby is the only one who can deliver into the future.”

However, Mr Windsor has responded by saying accusations he’s motivated by a personal vendetta, are merely diversionary tactics by his arch political rival.

“This personal stuff is him getting away from the significant issues he’s either not interested in or he’s done nothing about – it’s a tactic,” Mr Windsor told Fairfax Media

Mr Webb said issues like climate change and the giant Shenhua Watermark coal mine, that’s no longer situated in the New England electorate, formed the “backbone” of Mr Windsor’s reasons for making a political comeback.

But with the mine now situated in the neighbouring Parkes electorate held by Nationals MP Mark Coulton and looking like it won’t proceed to the extraction phase, the political stakes have changed, despite Mr Windsor’s backing by anti-mining forces.

Mr Webb said voters were also starting to realise two candidates held the same position opposing Shenhua.

He said Mr Joyce didn’t support the mine which was initially approved by NSW Labor and did “whatever he could” to halt its development; believing it was situated in the wrong place.

“Barnaby supports mining strongly but only in the right locations so people are now starting to realise he and Tony have really been singing from the same hymn book on that one,” he said.

“Tony was probably only gaining some momentum on that issue with the antagonists, but really they both have the same position and many people out there just don’t see it as a major issue now because they see them both fighting against the development.”

Mr Webb said New England’s farmers also held a more realistic attitude towards climate change policy than the view Mr Windsor may be perpetuating on social media.

“Everybody sees climate change as very important and no matter what the cause of climate change is – whether it be induced by man or natural causes – everybody is concerned about it and everybody in agriculture is very concerned about where that might be taking us over the next few decades,” he said.

“Everybody is hoping more work will be done on that with research and development to help with what we can do, into the future, with the different crop varieties we can grow and how to best manage our agricultural land, with the climate changing as it is.

“Tony is trying to capitalise on the position he’s held in the past on climate change by saying he’s the only one who can fix it.

“But in all honesty he can’t do any more than anybody else; he’s just one person.

“If somebody is going to put strategies in place that will help us manage how we live into the future with climate change then the government of the day will do that; not just one individual.”

Mr Webb said he believed Mr Joyce had delivered good outcomes for the nation and the electorate in particular through the multi-million dollar Mobile Black Spot Program to improve mobile telephone access

He said he’d also been working hard with the 11 various local government areas in the electorate, to deliver increased road funding.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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