Labor will hold an NBN forum in Tamworth on Thursday night, but don’t expect Nationals’ candidate Barnaby Joyce to be there – or at any public debates.
A senior Nationals member of Mr Joyce’s campaign team confirmed the former deputy prime minister would not be participating in any public forums or debates, due to the number of “out-of-towner” candidates.
“If they are serious about the election, which we don’t think they are, they will be up here campaigning all the time, not just for these one off events,” he said.
“Instead, Mr Joyce will be hitting the road and talking to voters on their terms, because he’s far more interested listening to voter concerns, than the views of out of towners.”
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CountryMinded candidate Pete Mailler expressed his disgust at Mr Joyce’s decision.
“He’s gutless and a hypocrite,” Mr Mailler said.
“This is that Nationals born-to-rule attitude coming to the fore yet again, this time from their Party leader, who is so certain he has won this election he thinks he doesn’t need to engage anymore than he decides to.
“It didn’t take us long to return to 2001, when the Nationals lost this seat because they were taking it for granted, did it?
“He is the only one who has nothing else to do all day other than campaign for this election. So, it’s a very poor outlook when many farmers like me are all out in their paddocks trying to get in a crop that we know has been devalued by his inaction, and he’s refusing to tell us why.
“Remember where Joyce lived in 2013? He was parachuted in from Queensland for pre-selection and he had no qualms about engaging with other candidates then. Truly, this Electorate deserves a better deal than this sort of arrogance.”
Upcoming public forums
Labor’s New England candidate David Ewings will be joined by Shadow Regional Communications Minister Stephen Jones for an open forum on the NBN.
Mr Ewings said there was widespread concern and dissatisfaction about the NBN rollout in the electorate, and he encouraged people to have their say at the event, which starts at 6pm at West Leagues Club.
Mr Jones said Labor was “very concerned” about the impact the “second-rate copper” NBN was having on local communities.
“Broadband is now an integral part of our daily lives and that’s only going to increase as more and more services, tasks and apps become cloud and internet-based,” he said.
The Tamworth Business Chamber will hold a meet the candidates forum on Monday, November 20, at Tamworth Town Hall, and is encouraging people to submit their questions.
“We’re inviting all candidates to attend and ask them to get in touch with us to confirm their involvement,” the chamber’s Jill Stewart said.
The NSW Teachers Federation is also organising two forums on education, with one in Tamworth and one in Armidale.
Last year, eight candidates – including Mr Joyce and former independent MP Tony Windsor – took part in a live debate, which was organised by The Leader and other local media organisations.