A HEAVY victory for Barnaby Joyce brought his main competitors back down to earth.
Literally. Three-time competitor Rob Taber was chipping thistles, Greens candidate Peter Wills was ripping weeds from his garden, while Peter Mailler was on the road back to his Boggabilla farm when The Leader caught up with the trio after the by-election.
“I suppose you take your frustrations out on something,” Mr Taber said.
Coming up short in his third tilt at the New England seat in four years, Mr Taber was “of course disappointed”, but more so for the electorate than himself.
“I’m more disappointed for New England and the fact people didn’t vote to keep the seat marginal,” he said.
“Barnaby’s really got open slather to do nothing again.”
Mr Taber partly-put Mr Joyce’s emphatic victory down to his name being a recognisable beacon in the “sea of names” voters had to traverse on the ballot paper.
He did congratulate Mr Joyce on regaining the seat and was impressed by the effort the Nationals put into the campaign.
“It is difficult and quite lonely as an independent,” he said.
“We struggle for every cent, so we’re really up against it.
“There were more supporters than I’d ever seen, there were 10 people handing out flyers for Barnaby in Armidale.
“We just have to keep [Mr Joyce] accountable now.”
CountryMinded candidate Pete Mailler was “disappointed to see a swing” to Mr Joyce and agreed the former MP’s name would’ve stood out for many voters.
“It was hard to sort the wheat from the chaff and people erred towards a safe place with their vote,” Mr Mailler said.
He doesn’t “believe that number of people agree with Mr Joyce’s stance on things like climate change, Shenhua and Adani”.
While he’s not crying into his beer, Mr Mailler said the campaign was costly.
“There’s a huge personal cost, it’s a brutal review of us an individual,” he said.
“To seek endorsement from the community and to be rejected is tough on your family as well.
“I didn’t run for me, it was about creating a credible alternative that motivates people.”
Standing in the rain at Tamworth High School, The Green’s Peter Wills couldn’t help but smile as the campaign closed.
“I was standing behind Bridget McKenzie and the Nationals who were under a marquee,” he said.
“I was standing in the rain and I was happy because I knew my sorghum crop was getting about 30 or 40mm on it. That was my win for the day.”
He was surprised to see the voters return to the National party, which he said “has abandoned farmers”.
“Yet we’ve still rewarded them,” he said.
“There were two conservatives last year and only one this year.
Mr Wills said he was “extremely proud and pleased” with the Greens’ campaign, but the Quirindi farmer was unsure about what his future may hold in terms political pursuits.
“My garden’s full of weeds,” he said in jest when The Leader asked what’s next.
David Ewings and Barnaby Joyce were contacted for comment.
The story Back to earth: candidates count the cost after Joyce victory first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.