AGQUIP may be Australia’s biggest rural supermarket, but this week it also proved to be the perfect campaign platform for a number of New England candidates.
A little more than two weeks out from the September 7 federal election, candidates have taken the opportunity to press the flesh and push their policy points at the three-day Gunnedah event.
With thousands flooding through the gates each day, they’ve had a captive audience and visitors have had a chance to air their concerns, too.
The Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce, independents Jamie McIntyre and Rob Taber, The Greens’ Pat Schultz and Labor’s Stephen Hewitt have all been at AgQuip, accompanied at times by some high-profile supporters.
Mr Joyce had Nationals’ leader Warren Truss by his side yesterday, outgoing member for New England Tony Windsor was supporting Mr Taber on Tuesday and Mr McIntyre had celebrity publicist Max Markson in his corner.
Even One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, vying for a federal Senate spot, was at the event yesterday.
All said it had been time well spent, allowing them to meet voters, who were able to put faces to the names, and hear their concerns.
“You could hardly walk 10 feet without someone stopping and wanting to talk,” Mr Joyce said.
He said agricultural policies and issues were obviously high on the agenda, including better trade deals, farm safety with respect to quadbikes and cattle yards, and the protection of prime farming land.
Mr Taber said he was surprised at the number of people who raised coalmining and coal seam gas issues, both for and against.
“It showed me that Gunnedah is split on this issue and that it’s going to take quite a lot of sorting out,” he said.
“But I think a balance can be struck.
“Tony Windsor was doing a lot of good work in that respect, so we need to keep going from where he left off.” Mr Taber said Mr Windsor’s support had been invaluable and many AgQuip visitors had told him how glad they were to have another independent to vote for.
Mr McIntyre said he’d also found a lot of people were looking for an alternative to the Coalition and Labor.