NEW England Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce has laughed off suggestions he’s a coal seam gas (CSG) magnate in waiting and says he put two properties, covered by a CSG exploration licence, on the market to sell about four years ago.
It comes after a report by Fairfax revealed Mr Joyce was selling his grazing properties in Gwabegar to avoid “any viewed conflict of interest” with the controversial CSG industry.
Mr Joyce and his wife, Natalie, bought the first property in 2005 before purchasing a neighbouring parcel of land three years later.
The couple have sheep and cattle on the 941 hectares.
“A lot of country we’ve grown wheat on and also a bit of barley on, too,” Mr Joyce told The Leader yesterday.
“As far as coal seam gas ... people are always suspicious.
“The best people to talk about it are my neighbours. They will confirm I knew nothing about coal seam gas when I bought the place.”
Fairfax Media has spoken to residents who claimed it was over-worked and low-quality country and Mr Joyce knew about the CSG plans.
However, Mr Joyce strenuously denies this.
“The most disappointing thing is that it was labelled mongrel country and there is very good country; the only thing that does is brings it down. You should never give a district a bad name,” he said.
“The reason I bought the land is we had sold the accountancy business and we saw it advertised in The Land.
“We were looking for a block and saw it and thought ‘that’ll do’.
“Other people are turning it into a modern version of Lang Hancock, but it’s very flattering.
“There’s been this sort of conspiracy rubbish for awhile.”
Mr Joyce said the first he knew of Eastern Star’s intention to explore Gwabegar was in 2011.
The New England candidate’s campaign manager is former deputy prime minister John Anderson, who is also the former chairman of Eastern Star Gas, which was bought out by Santos a few years ago.
Mr Joyce said he had no idea of the planned gas boom and was happy for someone else to reap the benefits, if that’s what lay ahead.
“You can buy it off me and you can keep it all yourself,” he joked.
“I’ll continue to improve it and fix the place up.
“Fix the fences and clean out the dams.”
Mr Joyce said he spoke with Narrabri agent Michael Geddes about selling the property three or four years ago.
He said it was on the market now for the right price.
“Actually, I’d like to get a bit more country back closer to Tamworth,” he said.