ELECTION ROAD TRIP: Early Morning In Tamworth, And The Locals Are Restless

Howard TurnerHoward Turner

It’s still cold in Tamworth. The morning sun hasn’t found its way over the buildings on the town’s main road.

It’s quiet. Until Howard Turner, 61, who runs the news agency on Peel Street, only a few doors down from National’s candidate Barnaby Joyce’s electorate office, is asked what he thinks of Australia’s political leaders.

“I’ve got no bloody faith in this government,” He says. “I can put it into stronger words, if you like?”

Turner’s never been political, he says. There are campaign posters in his shop window for all the major candidates running for New England, “only because people asked if they could put them up.”

While he has never bothered himself with the carry-on of politicians, he has no faith in our current Labor Government, saying that if the party is re-elected: “We’re down the gurgler.”

“We’re just about down there now.”

New England, which covers the agricultural tablelands in north-west New South Wales, is Nationals heartland. But it has been held by retiring independent Tony Windsor, who won the seat after resigning from the party in 2001. The seat is most likely to be returned to the Nationals with high-profile Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce standing to take Windsor’s place in the House of Representatives.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Tony but when we put in perspective … he did say he’d got $80 million for Tamworth — that was plastered all over the front page of the local paper,” Turner tells Business Insider.

“We’ve got 40,000 people in Tamworth and $81 million from this Federal Government, and we’ve got 40,000 boat people and they’ve got five-and-a-half billion.”

For Turner, like many Australian voters, one of this election’s big themes, asylum seekers, will help decide whose name he ticks at the September 7 election.

“I could row a bloody Kayak from Papua New Guinea,” Turner says, explaining he does not think the Prime Minister’s already-hardline policy goes far enough.

Sue Gillis, 55, comes in to buy a newspaper. She is worried not enough is being done to protect the region’s farm land from mining.

“Nobody seems to be too keen on keeping the food bowl going,” she says.

“We’re all Nationals people out there, but we’ve been turned off.”

Gillis is convinced, despite the assurances of politicians, including from Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce, that after the election farm land will be “ripped up”.

Van Phu TranVan Phu Tran

“I think he [Joyce] is going to promise a lot and then do nothing.”

Down from the news agency, Van Phu Tran, 49, is pulling loaves of bread out of the oven, in the bakery on Peel Street he owns.

He’s more hopeful about the region’s leadership.

“Whatever they do, I think they do try and do their best,” he says.

He has not decided who he will vote for, but the local baker has this to say of his customers’ mood:

“People still complain. They see Kevin Rudd and they don’t like him.”

Ben Collins is on a road trip from opposition leader Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah in Sydney to prime minister Kevin Rudd’s electorate of Griffith in Brisbane ahead of the federal election on September 7. He’ll be speaking to voters and business leaders about their concerns and what they hope to see happen in the coming three years.

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