“They believe you have too much regulation on tree clearing. Too much regulation on the ownership of firearms, too much regulation on everything you do on your land.
“They believe an urban constituency assuages their guilt by putting further restrictions on regional people.”
Asked whether those beliefs were, in fact, correct, Mr Joyce said: “I don’t have to believe whether it’s right or not. I can just tell you that we lost a seat over it – that’s a fact.
“They have lost their jobs, they have lost their income, that’s a fact. They are rightly angry about the economic predicament that they’ve been placed in.”
Mr Joyce said the key difference between the Shooters and the independent MPs who have previously won seats off the Nationals was that the Shooters were a structured party of the political right.
“They’re a party and they’re to the right of us,” he said. “If people are trying to muse that they’re somehow a tempered National Party, that’s ridiculous.”
Nationals MP David Gillespie, who represents the mid-north coast seat of Lyne, cautioned against overplaying the threat posed by the Shooters, but supported Mr Joyce in backing a government-backed coal-fired power plant and changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“Irrigators get blamed for everything but they’re not the cause of the drought,” he said.
“The biggest holder of water is the government Environmental Water Holder. It would make sense if some of that environmental water was put into keeping farmers producing food.”
Dr Gillespie said the Shooters party was “a significant player at the state level”, but it was not clear its success would translate to the federal arena.
The Shooters are looking to field candidates in the federal NSW seats of Parkes, Calare, New England and Riverina. Parkes, which takes in about half the state and overlaps significantly with the Shooters’ new state seat of Barwon, is held by the Nationals’ Mark Coulton on an ostensibly healthy 15 per cent margin.
However the Shooters lack a federal director and will need to get their ducks in line quickly, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison tipped to call an election as soon as April 7.
They also intend to run a Senate ticket. Mr Joyce has led a charge for the National Party to run its own Senate ticket separately from the Liberals – in what would be a major Coalition split – but this has been rejected.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Lisa Visentin is a state political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.