THE fate of Cubbie station has divided opinion in the community around the massive irrigation farm and pitted Nationals MP Bruce Scott against local resident and Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce, who covets his seat.
Relations between the two politicians have grown increasingly strained as the party is expected to call for nominations for Mr Scott's federal seat of Maranoa in south-west Queensland towards the end of this month.
Senator Joyce has been the most outspoken critic of the possible sale of Cubbie to a consortium headed by Chinese investors. The deal was approved by Treasurer Wayne Swan on Friday, but is yet to be finalised.
Senator Joyce's concerns were in no way mollified by the conditions imposed by Mr Swan, including that the Chinese investors, Shandong Ruyi, sell down their 80 per cent stake to no more than 51 per cent within three years and offer jobs to all staff.
"We're in a position where we're reticent to say the word 'Chinese' because it might insult the Chinese, but somehow we can hold them in the future to these conditions, to the payment of tax, to abiding by water licence conditions, which is one of the most contested parts of agricultural law?" Senator Joyce said.
His views were in marked contrast to those of Mr Scott, who said it was up to the Foreign Investment Review Board, not politicians, to decide if the sale was in the national interest.
"That's the process we have to go through and I respect that," Mr Scott said after reports on Friday that the FIRB had recommended the sale be allowed.
"The most important thing is that it continues as an operating farm, creating jobs locally."
Senator Joyce, who lives in St George, near Cubbie Station, has said he will be "out of a job" if he does not campaign against the sale to Chinese investors.
"We have just sold, by reason of Mr Swan, up to 13 per cent of Australia's cotton crop and the biggest water licence in our country," he said after Mr Swan's decision on Friday.