While the Wall of Fire didn’t bring Barnaby Joyce a win in the Melbourne Cup, he’s certainly challenging the competition in the New England by-election race.
“We (want to) get things happening to make sure Armidale becomes a bigger and more vibrant city … it’s going well at the moment and we want it to go even better,” he said while attending Armidale’s Can Assist Melbourne Cup Luncheon on Tuesday.
The former Deputy Prime Minister so far joins six other candidates in the ultimate race to the polls.
CountryMinded candidate Pete Mailler, who also watched the race in Armidale on Tuesday, said it was time to bring some competition to the by-election.
“We were watching the progress of the by-election narrative and what we were seeing was a very strong play by the Nationals to elicit sympathy from the electorate,” he said.
“Politics works best if there’s competition.”
The Greens officially endorsed Quirindi farmer and Liverpool Plains Alliance community campaigner Peter Wills on Tuesday.
Australian Country Party candidate Ian Britza, Armidale-based independent Rob Taber and Labor candidate David Ewings are also in the race.
Warwick Stacey will stand for the Seniors United Party of Australia.
And as the pack thickens, Mr Joyce says he won’t take anything for granted.
“Natural cautiousness means I work as hard as I can for every vote and I’ll be working hard all throughout this campaign,” he said.
Mr Joyce said even before the High Court’s decision, he had been busy visiting towns in the electorate.
“I’ve got another electoral office up in Tenterfield (and) I got preselected in Glen Innes and went straight over to Inverell,” he said.
“I’m just making sure I get around the whole electorate.”
Mr Mailler, a grain and cattle farmer from Boggabilla, said voters have a rare opportunity to influence the balance of power in Canberra.
“Marginal seats get all the political attention and I guess we founded CountryMinded originally because we learnt by experience that safe rural seats get very little political consideration in Canberra,” he said.
“All I can say is that this by-election is about a lot more than sympathy for a career politician who has fallen foul of the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Mr Britza, a former Western Australia Liberal MP, arrived in the region on Saturday and has been campaigning in Tamworth, tackling issues including youth unemployment and accessibility to the NBN.
“I think coming from outside the area is a positive thing because you see things with new eyes and new ears,” he said.
“Primarily I think it’s farmers feeling they’re not being heard and I think the intrusion of over-regulation of bureaucrats is very important to people.”