Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has described his citizenship case as being forced on him by “malicious fate” and accused others of using it to “open wounds and play a very poor game”.
Mr Joyce is among the Citizenship Seven waiting for the High Court to decide whether their dual citizenship makes them ineligible for Parliament.
The Nationals leader and Member for the New South Wales seat of New England is the only Lower House MP caught up in the crisis, and if the court rules against him he says he will go to a by-election.
The Turnbull Government holds only a one-seat Lower House majority. The Nationals are confident of retaining the seat but some party insiders expect it would be a hard-fought and potentially “dirty tactics” campaign.
Mr Joyce kept a low profile throughout last week’s three-day court hearings, but today he wrote an opinion piece for Tamworth’s Northern Daily Leader, the main newspaper in his electorate.
“I never wanted this, it was forced on me by malicious fate and others have used this to open wounds and play a very poor game.”
Commenting on the political climate in the nation’s capital he went on to criticise the “crazy boarding school” of Canberra.
“They revel in the salacious at the expense of the people who we should be totally, and only, focused on,” he wrote.
“I know how angry so many are that we are stuck in this issue that apparently my father being born in New Zealand could send us to a by-election, but that is the law and we deal with it.”
Mr Joyce suggested the High Court could hand down its decision at the end of the coming week. The uncertainty would overshadow this week’s parliamentary sittings.
“I hope for the best but prepare for the worst”, the Deputy Prime Minister wrote.
State of play in New England
Nationals internal polling in New England, conducted towards the end of last week, had Mr Joyce increasing his grip on the seat.
Former independent member for New England Tony Windsor, who joined the High Court action against Mr Joyce, is considered the most serious threat but has not said whether he would contest a by-election.
Mr Windsor ran against Mr Joyce in last year’s federal election and was convincingly beaten.
There is deep personal enmity between the pair, which played out publicly in the 2016 campaign. Mr Windsor has recently taunted his successor with personal criticism.
The ABC has been told The Nationals poll reached over 1,000 voters, with about a three per cent margin of error, and found support for Mr Windsor had softened since last year’s federal poll.
The field of candidates in a by-election scenario is expected to be wide.
Labor’s Sam Dastyari has confirmed the opposition would run a candidate, and “run to win”.
The Greens are also expected to field a contender.
One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party are also leaving the door open to running candidates.
The Nationals are facing a strong contest from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in New South Wales state by-elections in the seats of Murray and Cootamundra today.
The Nationals federal party will be closely watching the results to measure sentiment across the state.
Mr Joyce’s office has confirmed he is spending this weekend in his electorate.