By MATT NICHOLLS
BARNABY Joyce is under the pump from residents in New England who are criticising him for not spending enough time in his electorate.
There are still parts of New England that Mr Joyce hasn’t visited since he was elected seven months ago.
The MP’s hectic schedule, brought on by his duties as the Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of the Nationals, has made him elusive in the electorate outside his base of Tamworth.
“I know I need to get out there more, but there have been some big battles to fight since I got in,” Mr Joyce said.
“The GrainCorp situation was bigger than most people realised. It’s still Australian-owned because of me.
“Then we had the drought and we successfully negotiated a multi-million dollar drought package which took a lot of work.”
Mr Joyce spent last week in Perth and has been in the Middle East since Saturday for business delegations in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The MP said upon his return he would spend more time in New England.
“There’s a break between parliament sittings now, which should give me more time in the electorate,” he said.
The reaction from councillors around the region was mixed when approached by the Armidale Independent last week.
Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler said he hoped to see more of Mr Joyce.
“We really haven’t sighted him since he was elected,” Cr Hasler said.
“In saying that, we haven’t given him a formal invitation to any of our meetings.
“I see him powering out a lot of press releases, but I would have to say his exposure on the ground is not all that much.”
Inverell councillor David Jones said the MP was a regular visitor before the election, but had only made limited trips to the town since he was sworn in.
“To his credit he did talks everywhere before the election, and for six months, but he hasn’t been back a lot,” Cr Jones said.
“However, we do have (Senator) John Williams living here, so that could be a reason.”
Tenterfield mayor Peter Petty didn’t share those views, instead praising Mr Joyce.
“Barnaby has been outstanding. He’s been here several times for meetings and we’ve also been invited down to Tamworth for a meeting,” he said.
“He has been very supportive of major issues we have.”
Cr Petty said Tenterfield residents were happy that Mr Joyce was opening a small electorate office in the town.
“He is the first state of federal MP to have an office in Tenterfield,” he said.
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said he was regularly going in to bat for his federal counterpart.
“I don’t think a lot of people realise how busy a ministerial position can be,” he said.
“I find a lot of people are being critical of Barnaby’s lack of presence in the electorate, but he has a big job to do in Canberra as well.
“New England is also a massive seat compared to those in the cities, where many of the other ministers are based.”