NATIONALS leader Barnaby Joyce says his opponent in the New England by-election Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow is one of several opportunistic candidates entering the race from outside the electorate with alternative motivation.
Mr Meow-Meow - a geneticist with farming credentials - lives in Sydney and is one of 16 challengers for the former Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture and Water Resources Minister’s NSW rural seat, at the December 2 poll.
Asked what he thought of his unusually named opponent, Mr Joyce said “with a name like that obviously he has a huge dislike of dogs – he’s a crazy cat”.
“But seriously, we’re not quite sure what Meow-Meow is actually talking about,” he said.
“It’s patently absurd that there are 17 candidates and so many of them don’t even come from the electorate so one would have ask if their objective is not so much to help New England but to collect the money that they’ll likely earn per vote from the election.
“That money will go back to support their party’s wallet, making New England a cash-cow and that just adds to the cynicism that people already hold about the whole process.
“But what we’re doing is just campaigning flat out, getting out and visiting all of the small towns and the people there who recognise that when you’re fair dinkum, you’re fair dinkum and will make a real effort to get out and hear their views to understand what you can do to make their lives a bit better.
“We’re talking about what we’re actually delivering in New England and we’re standing behind our; from the inland rail, to mobile phone towners, dams and decentralising of government jobs from Canberra and the major capital cities, out to regional towns.”
Mr Joyce said he had however preferenced independent Rob Taber at number two viewing him as a genuine candidate.
“I have preferenced, at the top of the list of candidates, the others who are running in this campaign that I think are earnest candidates,” he said.
“Even though I hope to win, I’ve put Rob Taber at number two because I believe he’s a bona fide candidate - not an opportunist.
“(CountryMinded candidate) Pete Mailler doesn’t live in the electorate, the Green’s candidate doesn’t live in the electorate and (Australian Country Party candidate) Ian Britza doesn’t live in the electorate so they’re all just making it a farce.”
Asked how he got his name which is his legal one, Mr Meow-Meow said he changed it “for fun” when he was younger and it “then it stuck”.
Asked about a comparison between his name change and that of former Geelong Cats AFL star Garry Hocking, who altered his by deed poll temporarily to “Whiskas” in 1999, to earn $80,000 for his cash-strapped club and $20,000 for himself, the New England Science Party candidate said “that’s kind of how it went”.
“Basically, I got my arse into gear and started doing interesting things,” he said.
“After that, I couldn't really change it again.
“Now I've just got to use it to my advantage and hope that people will look at what I'm actually about and what I've done.”
Meanwhile, Mr Mailler – a local farmer who is continuing harvest while campaigning against Mr Joyce to win New England - has expressed anger at the lack of public debates during the campaign.
“He (Mr Joyce) is the only one who has nothing else to do all day other than campaign for this election - it’s a very poor outlook when many farmers like me are all out in their paddocks trying to get in a crop that we know has been devalued by his inaction and he’s refusing to tell us why,” he said.
“It didn’t take us long to return to 2001, when the Nationals lost this seat because they were taking it for granted, did it?
“Remember where Joyce lived in 2013?
“He was parachuted in from Queensland for pre-selection and he had no qualms about engaging with other candidates then.
“Truly, this electorate deserves a better deal than this sort of arrogance.”
Senior Labor MP Stephen Jones was in New England this week campaigning with Labor candidate David Ewings and took aim at the government’s record on NBN and digital connectivity in the regions.
“Regional communities need to be better connected to the wider world and that’s part of closing the gap between the city and count - it’s not all about watching Netflix,” Mr Ewings said.
“The NBN is crucial for communications with health services and with businesses that are ever increasingly needing to transmit files of larger size to potential customers everywhere.
“Regional areas deserve a proper, first world communications system but what we’ve got under this Coalition government is something entirely different.”
Mr Jones said it would be “very difficult to unscramble Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce’s egg - but there are at least three things we can do”, in terms of digital connection and NBN roll-out.
“We can say stop the rollout of the copper technology and revert to fibre - we know that it’s the only future proof solution,” he said.
Mr Ewings said he was “confident in saying that we are probably running the hardest campaign out of all the candidates”.
“We are working extremely hard but it’s a real privilege and I’m enjoying every minute of it,” he said.
He said he was also “really disappointed” about the cancellation of public debate opportunities.
“It was a great opportunity for other candidates, obviously myself included, to put forward the Labor message and to debate those ideas and I think it’s typical of Barnaby Joyce that he backs away from those debates,” he said.
“It just backs up what I’ve said right from the word go that Barnaby Joyce takes this electorate for granted.”
The story Joyce: New England opportunists make by-election a “farce” first appeared on Farm Online.