BARNABY Joyce’s move to take on Independent MP Tony Windsor for the NSW seat of New England seems to have sparked some internal division around state based parochialisms within the National party.
Party sources say the Queensland LNP division are “shitty” about Senator Joyce’s move south to return to his state of origin, NSW, while others are saying Queensland's loss is NSW’s gain.
But if everyone’s playing on the same team in the Coalition, state colours shouldn’t matter and the best players should hold down key positions to implement a winning strategy and achieve overall victory.
In reflection, the Queensland division may only have themselves to blame for losing a key player after Bruce Scott - who turns 70 this year - refused to budge and allow Senator Joyce passage into the House of Representatives via Maranoa.
Mr Scott has held the Queensland rural seat for the Nationals since 1990 and reading between the lines, seems to have decided to seek another term last year, just to block Senator Joyce’s run for the goal line to become the party’s potential leader and even one day stand as the acting Prime Minister.
There’s little doubt Senator Joyce has exerted a huge influence for regional Queensland since his election to the Senate in 2005, with his public popularity clearly outweighing Nationals leader Warren Truss and many others.
The maverick Senator has shown a willingness to stand up tall and fight hard for his political beliefs, having crossed the floor 19 times to vote against his own team, while serving during the Howard government.
He’s also the highest profile National and the one most-chased by the Canberra press gallery for comment - which often brings mixed results or unwanted jealousies.
While some Nationals sit around the party room devising how to gain public recognition or media traction on key issues, Senator Joyce has already spent game time laying repeated ideological tackles on his team’s green, red or independent opponents.
His comments can often represent a high or clumsy tackle, and cause internal injuries, like his outspoken views on foreign investment or wheat export marketing regulations, which grate on the nerves of free-market Liberals.
But love or loathe his style of politics, Barnaby’s the one people recognise first and approach in country pubs, to shake his hand and share a beer and the one they cheer for loudest at public rallies.
Money can't buy the notoriety he’s achieved for the nation-wide National party brand in recent times and never will.
Senator Joyce started out in politics representing the Nationals as a Queensland Senator, but his political views have been shaped by a mixture of life experiences in regional NSW and the current address at St George in western Queensland that he’s about to vacate.
He was born in Tamworth and raised on the family’s sheep and cattle property.
He earned a commerce degree from the University of New England in Armidale that he put to good use as a rural accountant.
Trying to relocate his office into the House of Representatives won’t change any of that past life experiences or undercut his fighting attitudes towards the bush.
In the current party set-up, he’s the shadow minister for water and regional Australia and tackles issues like foreign investment and the Murray Darling Basin fearlessly on behalf of all rural constituents, not just Queensland.
Rather than calling either Queensland or NSW home, Barnaby Joyce calls rural Australia home and has always had NSW blood pumping underneath his Queensland guernsey.
Canberra is the nation’s elite political stage and given Senator Joyce’s sporting background and having played a few games in country football leagues, he’d be the first to acknowledge the importance of a strong front row.
He turns 46 this week and now has some of his best political years ahead to stand in that front line and fight.
And he’ll be starting with his strong desire to return stable government and hold Mr Windsor to account, at grassroots level, for backing Labor in the hung parliament and producing three years of relentless political scandal, economic mismanagement and poor policy outcomes.