From the Northern Leader:
NEW England Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce accepts he’s the underdog but he doesn’t think he’s as far behind sitting MP Tony Windsor as the latest poll suggests.
It was no surprise he was the underdog, Senator Joyce said, but he disputes just what the voters might read into the latest poll.
“I went into this fight behind … but I’m closing in,” he forecast as he prepared to tackle a six-week whistle-stop talking tour of the electorate.
He questioned the results of a poll published in The Leader yesterday from its sister publication, The Australian Financial Review, that indicated the independent MP held a 10-point lead over The Nationals deputy leader.
Senator Joyce said he believed he was much closer than what the poll showed – ranking Mr Windsor with 49 per cent of the primary vote against Senator Joyce’s 38 per cent.
He didn’t doubt the numbers but he did question the transparency of the motives behind the poll – who did it, what questions were asked, what the sample size was, and the demographic split.
“I would question whether it’s a reflection of the electorate, the way the questions were asked to determine the outcome,” he said.
The story reported that the polling was done by the resources industry to gauge how real were the concerns about coal seam gas, water and coal mining – and according to the results the resources issues ranked way below priorities like jobs and employment, the economy, cost of living and health and education issues.
Senator Joyce predicts those issues will be among the questions raised in his electorate forums, which begin at Mullaley tomorrow with an afternoon appearance in the Mullaley hall.
From there he will take a swing through the far flung reaches of an electorate that is nearly 60,000 square kilometres in size and extends nearly 400km from south of Nundle to the Queensland border and is about 280km wide.
There are about 56 towns, villages and localities – and Senator Joyce has 29 of them in his sights for stopovers.
“I want to get to all the corners, the little towns that get forgotten, like Ebor,” he said.
Mr Windsor has held the seat of New England since 2001 with a margin of 21.52 per cent – the 10th safest seat in the parliament.
But this time around Senator Joyce believes that while he’s behind, he’s not too far behind and certainly not 10 percentage points.
He thinks there’s a huge 30 per cent of undecided voters out there going inside the four months before the election.
How they decide to vote will be crucial to his chances of toppling Mr Windsor and he muses that while Tony Windsor’s campaign might be based on his loyalty and his length of service to his electorate, his premise is for the future, and a place close to the centre of the action in a future government.
He also expects to get an inkling of the feelings of supporters and the great undecided when he hits the forum track tomorrow.
He expects some torrid, tough questions.