BARNABY Joyce has resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and New England MP following the High Court decision that ruled he is illegible to sit in the parliament due to his New Zealand dual citizenship.
The electorate will now be forced into a by-election, which is predicted to take place in early December.
Mr Joyce has already indicated he will stand in the by-election, and is eligible to do so as he has formally renounced his dual citizenship.
He still has strong support in the electorate, with the latest polling results showing he holds a strong majority in the two-party preferred results, with 57 per cent of the vote against former independent New England MP Tony Windsor’s 43 per cent.
But it won’t be an easy campaign – he’ll face a Melbourne Cup-sized field of candidates, with Labor, One Nation, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party all looking to stand.
Mr Windsor has yet to reveal his intentions, but is believed to be prepared to stand again after facing off against Mr Joyce at the last election.
During a whirlwind tour of Armidale and Tamworth, Labor senator Sam Dastyari said his party would stand a candidate in any by-election, despite historically polling poorly in the electorate.
“It’s about sending a message to this government – this is a government that needs to be sent a message," Senator Dastyari said.
Earlier this month, a One Nation spokesman said the party had not selected a candidate but had strong support in the area and would likely enter the contest.
“People feel let down by the Nationals, so there are a lot of calls from locals for us to run, and we have to give that consideration once the High Court makes it ruling,” the spokesman said.
NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Robert Borsak told Fairfax Media: “We are certainly considering it [standing a candidate], if we can find the right candidate we will”.
The party has been campaigning hard in traditionally National voting seat, successful taking the NSW electorate of Orange off the party at the recent by-election, while running fierce campaigns in other NSW by-elections, which have resulted in big swings against the Nats.
Former Western Australian Liberal MP, Ian Britza, will run for the Australian Country Party.
He held the traditionally Labor seat of Morley for eight years, before losing it in the March by-election.
“When I ran for Morley in 2008, Labor held it by 11.3 per cent – and I won it by 11.3 per cent,” he said.
“No one, not one person, said I could win it. Now I’m no fool, on paper New England is a safe Nats seat, but in my opinion it’s achievable to at least give the Nats a genuine fright.”
The High Court found Mr Joyce was in breach of section 44 of the Australia constitution and was not convinced by the case put forward Mr Joyce’s legal team, who argued the court should apply a broader interpretation of the word citizenship.
Senator Nigel Scullion is expected to take over as Nationals’ leader in Mr Joyce’s absences.
The Northern Daily Leader