Tony Windsor is aiming for a comeback less than three years after he retired. Photo: Wolter Peeters Tony Windsor announces he will contest the seat of New England. Photo: Andrew Meares
Joyce faces pincer movement threat
Tony Windsor will go head to head against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce for the seat of New England.
Ending months of speculation about a political comeback, Mr Windsor announced on Thursday that he will attempt to win back his old seat in Parliament.
The independent, who backed Julia Gillard to govern over Tony Abbott in the 2010 hung Parliament, was the New England MP for 12 years up until his unexpected retirement in 2013.
A defeat for Mr Joyce would represent a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Nationals.
There had been speculation that Mr Windsor would make a tilt for the Senate as his way back into federal politics.
Mr Windsor said he was standing to break down a “handbrake” hovering over Australia’s future.
“We’ve had this handbrake, and I’m not suggesting the current PM is a handbrake here either and it is not the Senate,” he said. “It is this small group of right-wingers of which Barnaby Joyce is one, Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz… that have a handbrake on progress in relation to issues of the future.
“The reason I’m standing is that I think I have to stand up for the sorts of things that I believe in, to give the people of the region that I come from the greatest opportunity for the future.”
Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that the Greens state upper-house MP Jeremy Buckingham was also considering joining the race for New England, however he announced on Thursday that he would not be contesting.
“I wish [Mr Windsor] well in the election and I hope that Barnaby Joyce loses his seat because Barnaby has been absolutely hopeless in defending agriculture from coal mining and CSG,” he said in a statement.
Both Mr Buckingham and Mr Windsor have been vocal opponents of the Shenhua Watermark coal mine, which is in the final stages of approval and would be located on the rich Liverpool Plains.
During his time as Agriculture Minister, Mr Joyce broke ranks with his cabinet colleagues, saying the “world had gone mad” when the open-cut mine received approval but his elevation to the second-highest office in the Turnbull government will make it much more difficult for him to distance himself from the controversial project.
In response, Mr Joyce has already sharpened his lines about Mr Windsor being a hypocrite on the coal mine issue. The independent sold his farm to Whitehaven Coal.
“We will mount a full-scale grassroots campaign and I’m fully aware that it will be a David and Goliath event,” Mr Windsor predicted.
“And I’m looking forward to that.”
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