A NEW England-born politician could hold the key to the Howard Government's bid to control the upper house.
Nationals candidate Bar-naby Joyce, who grew up in Danglemah, between Limbri and Woolbrook, is poised to become the 39th coalition Senator – enough to give the Government an outright majority – if he is elected.
And that would mean a powerful country voice to help protect the needs of regional Australia if the anticipated sale of Telstra is pursued next year.
Mr Joyce, who is standing as a Queensland senate hopeful, now lives in the sunshine state town of St George.
His connection with the New England and north-west remains strong. His parents still live at Danglemah, his wife's family live in Manilla, and Mr Joyce was there yesterday picking up his four daughters – the eldest is aged 8 – from his in-laws. The girls had been staying there during the heat and hype of Satur-day's election.
He met his wife when they were students at the University of New England.
He played rugby union with Walcha's premiership winning team in 1990 and was selected to represent Central North in 1993 and he reminisces fondly about end of line-out match-ups with Tamworth's Bernie Klasen.
Mr Joyce now owns and runs an accountancy practice in St George.
ABC TV election analyst Anthony Green has tipped Mr Joyce as the most likely person in a four-horse race to pick up a Senate seat in the sunshine state. However, postal ballots will play an important part in the final result.
Quizzed on the topic of the sale of the telco, Mr Joyce said if he were elected it would mean The Nationals would have strong leverage to ensure the needs of regional Australia were met.
He said Telstra had much ground to make up in southwest Queensland and north-west NSW. He could even cite personal experience with tele-communication problems.
"My parents' phone has been out of order for the past three weeks," he said.
"We realise we can't have a mobile phone tower on every hill in the country but regional centres like St George and Tamworth should have services equal to those in the cities."
He said The Nationals would have strong leverage in the Senate to ensure that regional Australia's concerns would be properly protected with the sale.
"It [his election] gives us another regional voice in the upper house," he said.
The road to Canberra will not have been an easy one for Mr Joyce. He said The Nationals ran on their own ticket for the Senate after the Queensland Liberal party voted 42-nil to reject a joint ticket.
As the tension mounts with the final stages of the count Mr Joyce said his main objective was not to get too excited or carried away with prospect of gaining the seat.
"My first priority was to pick up my kids," he said.
Mr Joyce did express one personal desire if he were elected.
"I'd love to go back to Woolbrook Public School and talk to the students there about what you can achieve," he said.
"I had a dream back then that one day I would get into politics.
"My only personal aim [if elected] would be the opportunity to perhaps hand out the prizes at the Christmas presentation at Woolbrook."