As I expected he’s up front with a wide smile. ‘Ah you’re from the paper that keeps bagging me.’
‘Oh no,’ I enthuse, ‘I have never published anything about you.’
I am sitting at a table with federal Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce in the food hall at the South Tweed mall.
We huddle to escape the noise of eaters while a flock of nervous Young Nationals hover nearby in outrageously loud yellow t-shirts.
Thankfully veteran Echo photographer Eve Jeffery is with me.
Sitting casually to one side, she holds the camera at waist level and clicks away as we chat.
He’s listening intently as I explain last week’s Echo lead story on a renewables company that went bust.
In conclusion I asked, ‘Is it a conflict of interest that a board, comprising partly the fossil fuel industry, regulates the renewables industry’s?’
Barnaby wouldn’t bite and it became clear I was onto something.
Despite being well known for giving an opinion on anything he gives me nothing.
We move on and Barnaby volleys a straight political ball.
‘You know, it’s important that we have this opportunity to speak,’ he says, ‘being that your paper is not particularly aligned with us, it’s a good thing that we reach your readership. ‘Real politics lies in differing views,’ he says with a sparkle in his eye. At that point he opens last week’s Echo, lands straight on the lead story and his jaw drops.
The camera clicks. In disbelief he points at subheadings ‘Little To No Support From Nats’, ‘MP Hartsuyker: No Political Weight’ and ‘Glazed Abbott.’