Barnaby does a regional tour

While all eyes were on the leaders of the major parties, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce shelled out money in the regions.

Citizen Leader Barnaby Joyce and National Liberal Party candidates Jacinta Price (R), Tina McFarlane and Damien Ryan (Image: AAP / Aaron Bunch)

Since the campaign began last week, most of the media’s eyes have focused on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese. This means that the National Party – the government’s minor coalition partner, hugely influential in shaping its agenda on regional issues and climate policy – has largely flown under the radar.

In part, this is due to Barnaby Joyce’s return to the post of Deputy Prime Minister last year. The man known for some strange reason as “Australia’s best retail politician” is politically toxic, particularly in many urban areas. He and Morrison didn’t campaign together. Instead, Joyce has been out getting rid of places in the regions, squandering big bucks on the road and giving us an indication of where the Nationals are both optimistic and vulnerable.

The Wombat Trail (as the Nationals campaign is known) began in the Victoria region, where Damian Drum of the Nationals is retiring as a member of the Nicholls. Drum held the seat by a 20% margin, but the party is concerned about an independent challenge from the popular Deputy Mayor of Greater Shepparton Rob Priestly.