THE Nationals have opened nominations for the party’s New England candidate in the 2019 election, with incumbent MP Barnaby Joyce already indicated he’ll be re-contesting.
Preselection will run for three weeks until October 19, with the candidate to be voted in by party members in mid-November.
The seat includes Merriwa, Scone, Aberdeen and Murrurundi in the Hunter.
Nationals New England branch chairman Russell Webb said so far, he wasn’t aware of anyone preparing to challenge Mr Joyce.
“At this stage, anyone within the National Party is welcome to put their hand up,” Mr Webb said.
“I’m not aware of any other nominations coming forward, but I can’t say for sure.
“It’s good to see a number of branches across the electorate publicly stating their support for Barnaby.”
Mr Joyce said he’d “throw his hat in the ring” and leave the rest up to the preselection process.
“I never take anything for granted,” the former deputy prime minister told Fairfax Media.
“It would be an incredible honour to represent the people of New England again. All I can show is the work I’ve done, and whether the people want me to go on with it, that’s up to them.
“If I’m successful, I will continue to work as hard as I’ve always worked.”
Mr Webb said the party had tightened its vetting process following the “Section 44 debacle”, which saw politicians on both sides forced to step down due to their dual citizenship status.
“We already had a very stringent process in place prior to the Section 44 problems,” he said.
“But obviously we’ve done some more work on the vetting process. We’ve certainly made it more comprehensive. It should be air-tight now.”
Mr Joyce was forced to step down as New England MP in October 2017, due to his New Zealand dual-citizenship, forcing the December by-election, which he went on to win.
“I think I’m good, now that I have a guarantee from the High Court that I’m fine,” Mr Joyce said, with a chuckle.
Mr Webb said candidates had to get their paperwork to the Nationals’ headquarters before 5pm on October 19.
“After nominations close, there will be a 28-day period prior before the preselection itself taking place,” he said.
Mr Webb has proposed to hold the preselection meeting on November 17, and is waiting for confirmation from the party.
Labor has already announced Armidale-based nurse Yvonne Langenberg as its New England candidate.