BARNABY Joyce is on track to record the largest swing in by-election history, as the former Deputy Prime Minister retains his seat by a massive majority.
Mr Joyce said he was “incredibly humbled” by the massive show of support from the electorate.
A handful of booths are still to be counted, but the results so far indicate a swing of at least 11 per cent towards Mr Joyce, who holds 62.99 per cent of the primary vote.
“I’m going to make sure I honour the vote by going back to working as hard as I can immediately,” Mr Joyce said.
“A lot of people that have never voted for me have voted for the National Party and me this time. I’m going to do my very best to be a workaholic for them.
“I think people were attracted to our plan for the region. They don’t want to hear about philosophical arguments – they want to know how you’re going to keep the lights on at the Tamworth Tennis Club or fix the veranda at Uralla's CWA.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in Tamworth to support his former (and soon to be reinstated) Deputy Prime Minister.
“This shows the people of New England support the government, they support the Coalition and this is the acid test,” Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Media.
A lot of people that have never voted for me have voted for the National Party and me this time. I’m going to do my very best to be a workaholic for them.Barnaby Joyce
“This election result is a very, very strong vote of confidence in Barnaby as Deputy Prime Minister, as leader of the Nationals and in our government, so I’m very pleased.”
Mr Turnbull said he was "looking forward to getting the band back together".
“We’ve been missing him – he’s been up here campaigning for five weeks, so it’s good to get him back,” he said.
Nationals’ New England Electorate Committee chair Russell Webb said Mr Joyce was a “champion for regional Australia across the nation”.
“This sends a strong message that the electorate wants to keep Barnaby, they want to keep him in government and they want him as Deputy Prime Minister,” Mr Webb said.
Tamworth Regional Council mayor Col Murray said the result was “not a great surprise”, given Mr Joyce’s track record
“In my mind it’s a just reward for all the hard work he's done,” Cr Murray said.
“Whilst he spends a lot of time in Canberra, I don’t think I can remember a single time I’ve sent him a text message asking him to call me – it might be at 11 o’clock at night, but he’s never failed to ring me back.”
Labor candidate David Ewings is sitting second in the polls with 11.43 per cent of the vote, followed by independent Rob Taber on 6.95 per cent and the Greens’ Peter Wills on 4.38 per cent.
Mr Joyce thanked his campaign team and his electorate office staff, along with everyone who voted for him.