Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has made his final election pitch to voters in the marginal Labor-held seat of Hunter, promising to get the region “humming” again.
Mr Joyce was immediately on the attack, criticising Labor for preferencing the Greens over the Nationals in the “crucial” NSW seat.
“The Labor Party have put the Animal Justice Party, which would close down the whole dairy industry, the saleyards which we invest in – all that would go – and then the Greens above us as well,” he told reporters on Friday.
“So they honestly believe the Greens would do a better job for the Hunter Valley than the Nationals.
“The Greens would immediately shut down the coal industry – that would decimate the area.
“They don’t believe in irrigation … they would reduce our Defence spending … they don’t believe in the nuclear submarines we’re trying to get. It would be a disaster.”
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Mr Joyce added Labor was refusing to preference the Nationals because “the Greens have got them where they want them”.
“It’s insane – how does that logic work?” he said.
Mr Joyce vowed only a Coalition government could deliver the outcomes needed for the region.
“By gosh, a lot of our nation’s economic prosperity resides here,” he said.
“If we get this place humming, Australia is a stronger place.”
Asked whether the Prime Minister should have visited the area during the election campaign, Mr Joyce said he was there for the Nationals, which had a business relationship with the Liberals.
“Ultimately, we’re not in a marriage, we’re in a business partnership between the Nationals and the Liberals,” he said.
“We make sure that business partnership works for our nation and works for the regions.”
Mr Joyce also joked that if he was in the region any more he would be charged rent.
Labor holds the seat of Hunter by a margin of just 3 per cent, but MP Joel Fitzgibbon is retiring after representing the community since 1996.
The 10,640sq km electorate includes the Hunter Valley towns of Cessnock, Singleton and Muswellbrook, plus urban areas on the western shore of Lake Macquarie.
There is a mix of agriculture and heavy industry as well as vineyards, horse studs and beef cattle grazing areas.
The Nationals candidate for the election is James Thomson, while Labor’s candidate is Dan Repacholi.