Joyce back in land­slide win

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - AN­NIKA SMETHURST

BARN­ABY Joyce will re­turn to Canberra and take back his role as Deputy Prime Min­is­ter after a strong by-elec­tion vic­tory.

Once con­sid­ered Aus­tralia’s best re­tail politi­cian, the Na­tion­als leader was hard to find yes­ter­day as he fought to win back his seat of New Eng­land.

The for­mer deputy PM, who was forced to re­sign after dis­cov­er­ing he was a dual cit­i­zen, cast his vote at his for­mer pri­mary school in the tiny town of Wool­brook, north­east of Tam­worth, pop­u­la­tion 248.

There was no sausage siz­zle or street walk for Mr Joyce, who stayed away from the ma­jor cen­tre of Tam­worth, bar a late visit to a school along­side Prime Min­is­ter Malcolm Turn­bull.

Mr Joyce spent the day in smaller towns, tak­ing his el­derly par­ents James and Marie with him to cast their vote.

Early re­sults sug­gested a swing of up to 10 per cent to Mr Joyce, who pre­vi­ously held the safe Na­tion­als seat by an 8.5 per cent mar­gin. Malcolm Turn­bull said the re­sult was a “stun­ning vic­tory”.

Ad­dress­ing sup­port­ers last night at the South­gate Inn, Mr Joyce said he was “hum­bled” by the sup­port.

His re-elec­tion bid has been marred by death threats, party in­fight­ing and con­tro­ver­sial com­ments from the NSW Deputy Premier that Mr Turn­bull should quit.

In the fi­nal days of the cam­paign he trav­elled with a se­cu­rity guard after be­ing stalked by a lo­cal man who has fol­lowed him on the cam­paign trail, bom­bard­ing him with ques­tions about his per­sonal life.

Mr Joyce’s wife and daugh­ters have been ab­sent from the cam­paign and his party last night, but Na­tion­als col­leagues in­clud­ing Damian Drum, An­drew Broad and Cabi­net min- is­ter Darren Ch­ester spent the day hand­ing out how-to-vote cards in the rain.

With a threat of an elec­tion­day shoot­ing, po­lice were on guard at polling booths across the elec­torate.

A bul­let and a note threat­en­ing a shoot­ing was re­port­edly found on one school premises and an­other bul­let was sent early in Novem­ber to Joyce’s Tam­worth elec­torate of­fice.

De­spite the strong swing, Mr Joyce looked like a de­feated man while cast­ing his vote with his par­ents, ad­mit­ting it hadn’t been an easy cam­paign.

“It’s been a very long cam­paign,” he said. “I wouldn’t want (it) to go on for an­other cou­ple of weeks.”

SIX months ago mem­bers of Malcolm Turn­bull’s front­bench de­liv­ered a mes­sage to the Prime Min­is­ter that a probe into the banks would be un­avoid­able.

There was grow­ing con­cern that the Gov­ern­ment was us­ing up pre­cious po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal pro­tect­ing the scan­dalplagued banks and re­ceiv­ing lit­tle in re­turn.

Anger grew when the Gov­ern­ment nar­rowly avoided los­ing a vote on the mat­ter by stand­ing guard around Queens­land MP Ge­orge Chris­tensen dur­ing a divi­sion.

The banks, now led by for­mer La­bor premier Anna Bligh, of­fered lit­tle thanks.

Back then Malcolm Turn­bull was even of­fered a tac­ti­cal with­drawal. After in­ves­ti­gat­ing lend­ing prac­tices by the big banks, for­mer ACT chief min­is­ter Kate Car­nell said the Coali­tion “should not rule out a royal com­mis­sion” be­cause as many as 2000 small busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als de­serve jus­tice.

It was a sig­nif­i­cant U-turn that would have pro­vided the Gov­ern­ment the cover it needed to back­flip on the pol­icy. But it didn’t.

In­stead, Malcolm Turn­bull was this week dragged kick­ing and scream­ing to the bank­ing probe after back­bencher Llew O’Brien de­clared sup­port for the royal com­mis­sion.

He sided with col­leagues Barry O’Sul­li­van and Ge­orge Chris­tensen who had wooed the Greens with a pri­vate mem­ber’s Bill. The Gov­ern­ment no longer had the numbers.

De­spite the warn­ing in June, the Prime Min­is­ter had missed the pop­ulist push that even bank chiefs could see. He had also un­der­es­ti­mated the dummy spit by con­ser­va­tives over the swift pass­ing of same­sex mar­riage and re­tal­i­a­tion for the Queens­land elec­tion.

It was messy and showed how bad things have be­come within the Coali­tion.

While a hand­ful of Na­tion­als — mainly Queens­lan­ders — are happy with the re­sult, those fur­ther south rightly fear they have over­played their hand. Don’t be fooled by the faux unity on dis­play in New Eng­land this week­end. They are fu­ri­ous that their col­leagues used up any good­will within the Coali­tion on a $75 mil­lion in­quiry that won’t win them any love in the elec­torate. As one told me, “come elec­tion time, there won’t be any money for us when we want roads and hos­pi­tals, this is what we got”.

Some Na­tion­als MPs are hope­ful they will be able to use the royal com­mis­sion as a cam­paign tool and claim vic­tory for de­liv­er­ing the pop­u­lar probe. But it will al­ways be seen as a La­bor Party pol­icy that gath­ered sup­port from across the cham­ber.

If the bank­ing royal com­mis­sion un­earths al­le­ga­tions of foul play, Bill Shorten will be quick to re­mind vot­ers that the Gov­ern­ment was op­posed to the in­quiry.

Malcolm Turn­bull and his Cabi­net will be haunted by 18months’ worth of sound bites where they told us all what a bad idea it was.

Even if it turns out to be a fizzer, but drives up in­ter­est rates as some have warned, the Gov­ern­ment will get the blame and won’t be able to say “I told you so”.

The Na­tion­als were al­ready on the nose with the Lib­er­als after the cit­i­zen­ship saga claimed their leader and deputy leader. Now things are about to get worse.

Their ac­tions have hu­mil­i­ated the Prime Min­is­ter and caused a deep di­vide in the Coali­tion and it won’t be for­got­ten. Barn­aby Joyce’s elec­tion vic­tory and re­turn to Par­lia­ment this week should bring some sta­bil­ity back to the Na­tion­als, but that could be short lived.

This week the ju­nior Coali­tion part­ner will elect a deputy leader after Fiona Nash re­signed fol­low­ing the dual cit­i­zen­ship saga. Queens­lan­der Matt Cana­van is con­sid­ered a favourite with Michael McCor­mack from NSW also a chance. The con­test will be used by fac­tions to flex their mus­cles for con­trol.

RE­UNITED: Barn­aby Joyce with Malcolm Turn­bull be­fore vot­ing yes­ter­day.

Pic­ture: KYM SMITH

KICK­ING AND SCREAM­ING: Malcolm Turn­bull didn’t want a royal com­mis­sion into the banks.

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