Former federal member for New England Tony Windsor is “not far from making a decision” about a political comeback.
The retired independent MP has admitted he is considering running for his former seat in a bid to topple sitting member and new leader of The Nationals, Barnaby Joyce at the next election.
He said he’s been thinking about re-entering politics for 12 months and it comes at a time when an online petition has been launched urging him to run.
The petition, organised by one of Australia’s largest campaigners GetUp! has already garnered 1789 signatures.
Mr Windsor said while he’s flattered by the numbers, it won’t be the main driver of whether he throws his hat back into the political ring.
“It’s the issues that are important,” Mr Windsor told the Namoi Valley Independent.
“I don’t need to be in Parliament just to be Parliament. The things that are driving me to consider this are the issues that are being neglected.”
Among those issues is coal mining in the Liverpool Plains area and the potential risk to water.
“I see all that is being subjected to bureaucracy on the Liverpool Plains with those big coal mines.
“Even the CSIRO thinks there’s a one-in-three chance of something going wrong with the Shenhua mine.
“That’s an extraordinary risk to take and they don’t have the information they should have.
“We still don’t understand the relationship between groundwater and surfacewater and it’s the most studied system in Australia,” Mr Windsor said.
The former MP also took aim at his potential political rival and old foe, Barnaby Joyce.
“I don’t think he’s been too interested in being the representative of an electorate. He’s just been interested in being in politics.
“There’s been very little that’s been done. It’s more about him than his constituency.”
Barnaby Joyce said the decision by the lobby group GetUp! to organise the online petition backing Mr Windsor to stand, is an “indictment of Australia’s political freedom”.
“Everybody knows that GetUp! is a lobbyist group from the left and they are going to push for candidates from their political spectrum,” Mr Joyce said.
“It is their right to support independents against the Coalition.
“GetUp has policies that include wanting us to open our borders and to close down our live cattle export trade.”
Other issues Mr Windsor said he’s concerned about include national broadband, renewable energy, climate change and drought sustainability issues and the Gongski school funding model needs.
He said he’s had a lot of people from both in and outside of the New England electorate urging him to think seriously about standing again.
“I haven’t lost interest - particularly in regional politics, but politics in general.”
Mr Windsor was one of several MPs who supported the Gillard minority Labor government from 2010 to 2013.
He announced his retirement from politics at the 2013 federal election after 22 years as an MP, citing health issues and family for the reasons at the time.