Grain and cattle producer Peter Mailler took a detour to Inverell on his way to Goondiwindi after watching the Melbourne Cup race in Armidale on Tuesday.
On this impromptu visit, he called up a few non-political friends who met with him at Freckles Cafe on Byron Street at short notice. They talked about local issues. Inevitably, the conversation came around to his candidacy in the New England by-elections.
It was a decision that had been brewing for quite some time but was finalised on Saturday. “I wanted to get news of other candidates to see if CountryMinded should support any of them,” Mr Mailler told the Inverell Times. In the end, however he decided that he should run for the seat himself.
“The best outcome can be had when you have a marginal electorate,” he said. Not a surprising view, coming from a man who founded a party to hold traditional core conservative rural political factions like Nationals and Liberals to better account for their policies and to make safe country seats more contestable.
It’s this “keep them honest” mentality that drives him as he stresses that his goal is not “political”, nor is he motivated by a need to be a “parliamentarian”. He identifies more with farmers than politicians. But he claims to have joined the political race because he wants accountability and action.
And he may achieve his goals regardless of the results. Coming close can be enough to influence the decision-makers and have them stop taking their voters for granted.
He believes that the seat of New England is particularly attractive as it has shown that it is one that should not be taken for granted. He recognises however the natural sympathy people have towards Barnaby Joyce, but he warns that the real issue is not just the dual citizenship case that lead to the National party candidate’s disqualification.
“There’s a lot more to think about,” he said.
“Regardless of why we are having a by-election, it is an election and it should be contested on its merits. We should look at the real issues.”
What about Inverell?
Mr Mailler supports Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall. “Inverell is well-served by Adam as its state member. He works hard,” says Mr Mailler. He praises Mr Marshall for getting state funding for infrastructures, such as Inverell Hospital and pledges to work with the people to ensure that the hospital will serve the needs of the growing population in the future.
He is critical of the weaknesses in the telecommunication infrastructure that he pledges to work to improve.
“Yes, I will work with Adam,” he says. “He works very hard.” But he cannot say the same for Joyce.
He believes that there are good people, such as Mr Marshall, scattered across political parties. He is critical however that there is sometimes a party-first culture rather than a focus on serving the people.