TONY Windsor, the maverick rural MP who helped Labor keep office during the last parliament, says he is considering running again for the seat of New England after the Abbott government gave its approval for a huge open-cut coal mine on the Liverpool Plains.
The government on Wednesday gave approval for the $1.2 billion Shenhua Watermark coal mine, which is to be built by China's state-owned Shenhua Group about 25 kilometres south-east of the northern NSW town of Gunnedah.
Mr Windsor told Fairfax Media that, while "I haven't ruled it out, haven't ruled it in, it's a possibility" that he will take on the sitting member, Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce, at the next election.
The mine's approval is "provocative in terms of the temptation to run again", Mr Windsor said.
Mr Windsor retired as the member for New England before the 2013 election. A farmer, Mr Windsor has continued to speak out against coal and coal seam gas mining on farmland.
The former independent also dismissed Mr Joyce's comments on social media site Facebook after the approval was announced that he had "done everything in my power to try and stop the mine … I think the world has gone mad when apparently you cannot build a house at Moore Creek because of White Box grassy woodlands but you can build a super mine in the middle of the Breeza plains".
Mr Joyce "is just playing a game", Mr Windsor said.
"Those who know what's going on locally, know exactly what he's doing - he's playing both sides of the fence."
The Minister may say he has done everything he can to stop the mine, but he hasn't, Mr Windsor said.
Fairfax Media has sought comment from Mr Joyce's office.