BARNABY Joyce has romped to a thumping victory in New England with one of the biggest election swings on record, putting the cream on the cake of his risky move from the Senate to the Lower House, at the 2013 federal election.
Mr Joyce resigned from being a Queensland LNP Senator ahead of the election when he controversially replaced the National party’s original preselected New England candidate Richard Torbay.
Mr Torbay was forced to quit the Nationals over alleged links to former Labor power-broker Eddie Obeid’s involvement in the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Details of Mr Torbay’s rushed resignation still remain largely unknown - but any stains on the National party from that botched preselection process failed to translate into voter dissatisfaction at the September 7 poll.
With about 84 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Joyce had scored almost 54pc of the primary vote.
His nearest rival was independent Rob Taber who claimed about 14pc of the primary, after gaining outgoing New England independent MP Tony Windsor’s approval.
The vote saw a 29pc swing towards the Nationals from the 2010 election result which translated into a remarkably similar result to the last poll, after distribution of preferences.
After distribution of preferences in 2010, Mr Windsor had 71.5pc of the vote over his Nationals’ rival’s 28.5pc, while in 2013 Mr Joyce currently sits on 71.2pc of the vote to his Labor rival’s 28.8pc.
Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Joyce said he was tired after four months of determined and concerted campaigning throughout the rural NSW electorate involving numerous public meetings and community engagement events.
“I obviously feel very humbled,” he said.
“It was one of the biggest swings in Australian political history but that’s a decision for the voters of New England.
“My job is to respect that result, not pontificate on the reasons why it happened and think I’m a clever bugger for it.
“Now the real hard work starts.
“We’ve had a really good team working very hard in every little corner of New England and made sure that we got around and said g’day to everyone, so they know what we’re about.”
In opposition, Mr Joyce has served as the Shadow Minister for Regional Australia and Water and is now widely tipped to be a leading player in Tony Abbott’s new cabinet.
Depending on the number of portfolios allocated to the Nationals through the apportionment of elected members, under the Coalition agreement, Mr Joyce could possibly receive a senior ministry combining Agriculture, Water and Regional Development.
Mr Joyce said any decision would be made by Nationals leader Warren Truss with Mr Abbott.
He was unsure of the exact time-frame but said the new cabinet could be decided later this week.
“If I get a job I get a job but if not I’ll have more time to do other things,” he said.
Kevin Rudd conceded defeat to the Coalition around 9.30pm last night ending six years of Labor government and said he would not recontest the Labor leadership.
With about 76pc of the vote counted, Labor had won only 51 seats of 57 predicted ahead of the poll and the Coalition had claimed 81 of the 91 seats predicted – an expected majority of about 30 seats
Mr Joyce said it had been six years long years of opposition but the victory was bitter sweet.
He likened the election win and change of government to buying a property that’s been in disrepair with fences down, weed infestations and run down cattle and knowing “now you have to start the hard work of fixing it all up again”.
Mr Joyce said he was looking to have at least a couple of days off to recharge his batteries before starting the work of delivering on promises made during the election campaign, for New England.
He said he wanted to transfer from campaign mode and into work mode “as quick as possible” to “start getting the country up and running again”.
Mr Joyce said reigniting live cattle exports to Indonesia was one of his key priorities along with a review of competition rules to assist with increasing farm profitability.
“Agriculture really does have a major role to play if you’re going to turn this business called Australia around,” he said, in reflecting Mr Abbott’s sentiment.
In his election victory speech last night, Mr Abbott said, “I declare Australia is now under new management and once more open for business.”
Key rural seat results
New South Wales
THE bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro has been held by an MP from the party in government every year since 1972, and that trend may well continue this year but the results are extremely tight. Current Labor MP Mike Kelly has 49.8pc of the vote with about 80pc counted while his Liberal rival Peter Hendy holds a slight lead on 50.2pc.
Rob Oakeshott’s former seat of Lyne on the NSW north coast was easily won, as expected, by the Nationals’ Dr David Gillespie, holding 65.1pc of the vote to the ALP’s 34.9pc, with 82.1pc counted.
Outgoing federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon lost significant ground in his safe Hunter seat, with the Nationals’ Michael Johnsen cutting the veteran Labor MP’s safe majority from 12.5pc to 3.9pc.
Labor’s Janelle Saffin lost the NSW north coastal seat of Page to the National party’s former teacher and superannuation consultant Kevin Hogan, who gained a swing towards of almost 7pc. Ms Saffin won Page in 2007 and claimed a 4.2pc majority at the 2010 election but suffered from Labor’s poor record federally. Various rural issues were front and centre of this election campaign, including dairy farming profitability and supermarket powers. Ms Saffin was also one of the loudest critics of the live export trade and was instrumental in the backbench revolt which saw Labor ban the trade for one month in June 2011, due to animal welfare concerns.
Labor’s Justine Elliott had her majority cut back in the NSW north-coast seat of Richmond by Hungry Jacks proprietor Matthew Fraser who achieved a 4pc a swing towards the Nationals.
In Hume Angus Taylor easily retained the safe Liberal seat vacated by the retiring veteran MP Alby Schultz, achieving a positive swing of 2.74pc towards the Liberals over Country Labor.
The semi-rural southern Victorian seat of Corangamite has been held by Labor’s Darren Cheeseman since 2007 and was claimed by the tightest majority in the nation of 0.3pc at the 2010 election. The poll saw 12 candidates contest this year, including Liberal’s Sarah Henderson, a former journalist, who claimed a 4pc swing and now seems likely to atone for her failed tilt at the seat, at the 2010 election.
Sitting Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella faced a serious challenge to retain her safe northern-Victorian rural seat of Indi against 11 candidates including well credentialed independent Cathy McGowan, who was backed by Outgoing New England independent Tony Windsor. Ms Mirabella has held the seat since 2001 but with 77.1pc of the vote counted Ms McGowan has cut her Liberal opponent’s 9pc majority by 7.2pc, to just 1.8pc.
The sale Labor central Victorian seat of Bendigo saw a three cornered contest with the Liberals and the Nationals. The retirement of long-serving Labor MP Steve Gibbons after 15 years, opened the way to the Nationals’ Sarah Sheedy and Liberal Greg Bickley. Despite the Liberals gaining a swing of 7.8pc, Labor’s had a 1.6pc lead with almost 80pc of the vote counted.
The Victorian seat of Mallee, vacated by the retiring National John Forrest, saw a tough three cornered contest involving former Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad and the Liberal’s Chris Crewther a former international property lawyer. But in the end Mr Broad achieved a 1.1pc swing towards the Nationals and had 74.3pc of the vote over Labor, with about 81pc counted.
The seat vacated by retiring Labor MP Kirsten Livermore Capricornia was heavily targeted by the LNP, with candidate Michelle Landry sitting just 0.1pc behind Labor candidate Peter Freeleagus on 50.1pc, with 79pc of the vote counted.
The safe LNP seat of Hinkler vacated by retiring MP Paul Neville was retained for the party by local business man Keith Pitt, who conceded a 1.5pc swing towards the ALP.
In the marginal seat of Flynn Ken O’Dowd achieved a 1.1pc swing towards the LNP to hold a 4.7pc advantage over his Labor opponent Chris Trevor who lost the seat in 2010 after one term.
A big win for the LNP came in the marginal Queensland coastal seat of Dawson which was won by George Christensen by a 2.4pc lead at the 2010 election, but at the 2013 poll he has extended the margin out to 7.6pc.
In Bass, former army officer Andrew Nikolic achieved a 10.5pc swing towards the Liberals to hold a 3.7pc advantage, with 80pc of the vote counted, against Labor’s Geoff Lyons who has held the seat since 2010.
The seat of Braddon held by Parliamentary Secretary Sid Sidebottom since 2007 has gone to former Tasmanian state Liberal MP Brett Whiteley, who achieved a 9.7pc swing to hold a 2.2pc advantage with 83pc of the vote counted.
Labor veteran Dick Adams looks set to lose the seat he’s held since 1993. Liberal candidate Eric Hutchinson - an agricultural real estate businessman – had a 13.5pc swing towards the Liberals and held a 1.2pc advantage, with 76.5pc of the vote counted.
In the semi-rural South Australian seat of Wakefield - held by Labor’s Nick Champion since 2007 and with a 10.5pc advantage since the 2010 election – former AFL player Tom Zorich achieved a 6.9pc swing towards the Liberals. Mr Champion held a 3.7pc margin with 78pc of the vote counted.
The large wheat growing seat of O’Connor won by National’s MP Tony Crook from veteran Liberal Wilson Tuckey in 2010 but retired after one term, was producing one of the tightest polling results in the nation. The Liberal party’s Rick Wilson, a Katanning farmer and former Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA grain committee leader, had achieved a 4.8pc swing and held a 1.2pc lead over Katanning born farmer and mining executive Chub Witham, with about 75pc of the vote counted.
The Liberals look likely to win another three cornered contest in Durack, where Liberal veteran Barry Haase resigned ahead of the election. The National’s candidate Shane Van Styn contested the March state election for the Nationals in the seat of Geraldton and Liberal’s Melissa Price, a former lawyer was the Liberal’s candidate at the State election in Kalgoorlie. With about 65pc of the vote counted, Ms Price had 54.2pc of the vote which represented a 9.5pc swing towards the Nationals.