A week back in Why Andrew Wilkie may fail I discussed the reaction to the proposed poke machine legislation in the country and especially Tony Windsor's New England electorate. For the benefit of international readers, Mr Windsor is one of the country independents on whom the Gillard Government depends for survival.
In my post I said in part:
In his role as an independent, Mr Windsor has already demonstrated that he is prepared to take a broad view even if it creates local anger. I don't think that he can in this case, because the costs are specific and local. Unless the Commonwealth Government can work out some form of compensation package, Mr Windsor will have to vote no, and the legislation is likely to fail. Mr Wilkie will then have to decide what to do.
I hadn't actually seen it at the time, but the Armidale Express (Armidale is in the heart of Mr Windsor's electorate) was already reporting Mr Windsor's views along these lines. I quote:
“There is no doubt in my mind after talking with smaller club managers that if some of the proposals being talked about come to fruition, they would potentially wipe out some clubs,” Mr Windsor said.
“I’m not convinced that some of the proposals will have the effect of reducing problem gambling.
“I will obviously wait to see the legislation if and when it reaches the Parliament but unless substantial changes are made to the proposal, I will not support anything that will wipe out community based organisations,” he said.
In a letter to the paper (not on-line), the NSW Golf Clubs Association suggested that the legislation would impose $77 million in new costs on golf clubs, while reducing revenues by $42 million. That revenue loss should not equated just to problem gamblers, but is an across the board estimate
New England was also in the news this week because of the possibility that Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce might challenge Mr Windsor for the seat. Mr Joyce needs to be in the House of Representatives if he is ever to challenge for National Party leadership.
In an interview in the Lismore Northern Star Mr Joyce made it clear that while he was considering the seat of New England, he was not interested in the adjoining Northern Rivers seats. They have sitting members, while Mr Joyce has a direct family connection with the New England seat. He grew up there, went to school in Tamworth and then studied at the University of New England.
All this is, of course, of interest to me from a personal perspective.
The photo shows campaigning at the 1943 election. The speaker is J P Abbott (no relationship that I know of to the current Opposition Leader), then Country Party Federal Member for New England. To his right wearing a hat and carrying his hearing aid box is my grandfather, David Drummond, who was then Country Party member for the state seat of Armidale and would become Federal Member for New England in 1949.
It's nice to see Northern NSW, the broader New England that I write about, come back into some form of prominence again! From a purely selfish perspective, it does no harm to possible sales if and when I can complete my history of New England.
In New Matilda, Adam Brereton's Big Trouble In New England discusses the possible Windsor/Joyce stoush. Adam concludes that Joyce would be unlikely to win. I think that he is probably right. However, the Nationals are indeed resurgent.
It's actually quite interesting. Northern NSW outside the Lower Hunter was traditional Country/National Party heartland, giving the Party a solid core regional base in both State and Federal Parliaments. This was very important, because the Party's support elsewhere was much more volatile.
In the 1980s and 1990s the Party's Northern support base started to fragment. By the early 2000s it was in very considerable trouble to the point that New England independent supporters seriously thought that they might overturn the Party altogether. The significance of the recent State election results is that, outside the Northern Tablelands, they re-established National Party dominance outside the Lower Hunter.
State and Federal are different. However, the Party is back in Government for the first time in a long while, has had an infusion of new Parliamentarians, of new members and, most importantly, enthusiasm. So it's in a much better position to challenge Mr Windsor.