QUEENSLAND Senator Barnaby Joyce says he has the backing of federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott to run for pre-selection in the seat of New England.
Senator Joyce confirmed he had spoken with Mr Abbott on Tuesday night, and again yesterday, since he first spoke to Fairfax Regional Digital late on Tuesday flagging his interest in the now-vacant position.
He was told by Mr Abbott that the Opposition leader would back him “100 per cent”.
Since news broke of Mr Torbay’s shock forced withdrawal from the race for New England, Senator Joyce had spoken with senior Nationals figures in the electorate overnight on Tuesday, he said.
While his fate was in the hands of the electorate council and Nationals members, Mr Joyce said, he would return to the electorate, the home of his parents and in-laws, when he had a day off Parliament.
“I’ve had immense support from a whole range of people in the electorate, people within the National Party and people outside the party,” Senator Joyce said.
He said he believed people in the electorate wanted two things – “removing the Labor Party and independent government” and “making sure they’ve got a voice in the incoming government”.
“People are saying it’s quite obvious at this point in time with the polling that the Coalition will win. They want to make sure they’ve got an MP in government,” Senator Joyce said.
“I don’t kid myself – Mr Windsor will put up a fight and I’ve got no interest in having a personal clash with Mr Windsor. I’ll be talking about government record and he is part of that.”
For the moment, though, Senator Joyce is happy to bide his time. While no firm date is available yet, a pre-selection ballot is believed to be weeks away.
“The New England Electorate Council have to make their decision and I will give them the dignity and the space to make their decision – I’m prepared to do it, if they want me to,” he said.