In response to claims of John Howard encouraging Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce to move to the House of Representatives, Sean Parnell has penned speculation in the Australian about potential seats Joyce could take on. Parnell rules out National-held seats such as Maranoa in Queensland and Parkes in NSW, before concluding that the best option for Joyce would be to challenge independent MP Tony Windsor in the northern NSW seat of New England.
For sure, a contest between the populist Joyce, clearly the most charismatic figure in his party, and the popular local independent would be fascinating and a focus in the 2010 election for the media. However, I would argue that it makes a lot less sense for Joyce than contesting the Queensland seat of Flynn, which Parnell mystifyingly describes as “a step too far”. In contrast to Windsor’s 24.33% margin in New England, Flynn is held by new Labor MP Chris Trevor by a slim 0.16% margin. Flynn is the second-most marginal ALP seat in the entire country, and would be considered eminently winnable with a star candidate like Joyce. On top of that, the Queensland redistribution is likely to pull Flynn further away from urban centres, which could be enough to make the seat a notional Nationals seat. If Joyce contested Flynn, you would have to consider him the favourite, whereas a Windsor-Joyce contest in New England would be much more difficult for Joyce to win.
Another possibility would be the election of Joyce as leader of the Nationals prior to moving to the House of Representatives. There’s no reason why an opposition party couldn’t be led by a Senator, particularly if he had secured preselection in a seat he would be likely to win. An election campaign would be difficult for Warren Truss as Nationals leader if the media makes the reasonable assumption that a Joyce victory in the House of Representatives would quickly lead to Truss being deposed as Leader.
Update: Possum has also delved into this sphere.