Barnaby Joyce claims 'underdog' status against Tony Windsor in fight to keep seat of New England

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is forecasting an uphill battle to retain the seat of New England, in the face of competition from Tony Windsor.

Key points:

  • Barnaby Joyce responded to poll suggesting Tony Windsor could unseat him
  • Scott Morrison said Mr Joyce never considered his re-election a foregone conclusion
  • The race for New England would be contest between two individuals, says Antony Green

Mr Joyce has responded to a poll published by The Australian Newspaper today, which suggests the former Independent member for New England could unseat him.

"Unfortunately that means I claim the mantle as the underdog," Mr Joyce said.

The poll, conducted on Saturday, has a 4.3 per cent margin of error and sampled the views of 518 voters in the electorate.

The poll measured similar support for both candidates in the primary vote but, after preference flows, it put Mr Windsor ahead 52 points to 48.

Mr Joyce said New England voters would fare better with a senior Government representative lobbying for their interests, and would lose out if he was dumped.

"It's quite obvious, and a statement of the bleeding obvious, that from the office of the Deputy Prime Minister you've got a vastly better chance of getting through the important issues of New England, than as a backbencher in what will — for all intents and purposes — be the opposition," he said.

Mr Joyce was referring to a separate poll published by Fairfax, which measured a boost in the Government's support — putting the Coalition on 53 per cent to Labor's 47 per cent, two party preferred.

The Fairfax Ipsos poll has a 2.6 per cent margin of error.

The result comes after two consecutive Newspoll surveys had the Government and Opposition neck and neck, 50–50 in the two-party preferred stakes.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said Mr Joyce never considered his re-election a foregone conclusion.

"You can never take anything for granted in politics; Barnaby never has," Mr Morrison told Sydney's 2GB.

"In this case you'll have someone running against him who seems to be more driven by bitterness than a positive agenda."

Mr Morrison said he was "backing Barnaby a million per cent" and praised the results Mr Joyce had achieved for the electorate.

Contest between two personalities

ABC election analyst Antony Green said the race for New England would be a contest between two individuals, and he pointed to the primary vote figures as evidence.

Windsor's greatest foe yet

Tony Windsor has previously unseated a Nationals MP, but it's another thing entirely to bring down the Deputy PM, writes Annabel Crabb.

"I think everyone concentrates too much on party-preferred figures, [but] the key thing to watch in this contest is the vote for the Nationals versus Tony Windsor," he said.

Mr Joyce secured 46 per cent of the primary vote, compared to Mr Windsor's 44 per cent. A calculation of expected preference flows pushed Mr Windsor ahead in the poll 52 points to 48.

"If they carve up 90 per cent of the vote between them, as this opinion poll does, Labor and Greens preferences will favour Tony Windsor quite solidly, and so it's just simply a matter of who's ahead on first preferences," Mr Green said.

He said it was not unusual for electorate polls to survey about 500 voters, and that country polls were often more indicative than similar surveys of city electorates.

"I think opinion polls from country areas have a tendency to get people's views, because people know who the candidates are," he said.

"Some of the city-based polls with high migrant populations have been a bit unreliable in the past."

Mr Green said people should not be judging the next election on the weekend poll, given how much could change before the federal ballot.

Source: ABC News

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