Ms Rinehart said that while she was not a member of any political party, “Barnaby is a great Australian so I just wanted to be here to show my support”.
Mr Joyce was poised for a landslide victory after more than a third of the votes in New England had been counted, with a 52 per cent majority.
His closest rival, independent Rob Taber, had just 16 per cent.
The two seats decided the fate of federal government in 2010, but last night they symbolised a new beginning.
Both seats fell three years ago to independents – Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott respectively.
Those two men were the controversial keys to installing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, but with their resignations the Coalition last night exploded back onto the scene.
Dr Gillespie said the result “demonstrates that the experiment with independents is dead.”
“The people have resoundingly spoken and they have said that they want to know where their vote is going,” he said.
“A lot of people felt they gave them to one person in the last election and then they went in a direction they didn’t want or support.”
Mr Joyce said he was “incredibly humbled” by his “pack of killer canaries” – the army of volunteers who manned polling booths clad in bright yellow Nationals T-shirts.
“To the people of New England, this victory is not mine, it’s yours … and by gosh we’re going to celebrate,” he said.
However, he was determined not to “wallow in revelry”.
He paid particular tribute to Ms Rinehart.
“When the chips were down and we had to say: ‘Are we going to be serious about this’, I’ve got to say that people like Gina give you strength.”
For her part, Ms Rinehart was openly critical of the former Labor government, condemning its three-year spiral into debt.
“We’ve got to have a government that recognises the economic fundamentals. We are in a really bad situation of record debt,” she said.
“If we haven’t got strong export industries, then Australia is going to have a very difficult future, particularly with the record debt, the infrastructure fund gone and the future fund gone.”
“We’ve got to do a shake and make people want to invest in Australia again, be that international or domestic.”
Mr Joyce said the contest began as a major gamble before Mr Windsor announced his retirement from politics.
“I’ve always tried to be who I am. I walk humbly among my people – that’s how I was brought up and that’s how my wife keeps me,” he said.
The outcome in Lyne and New England seemed an inevitability almost as soon as votes opened yesterday, when people exiting polling booths indicated overwhelming support for the Coalition.
Tucked among the fields of canola and sorghum and barley south of Tamworth, polling places in tiny community halls were lucky to attract more than a couple of hundred voters.
But it was these isolated outposts where Mr Joyce said an election was won or lost.
“I think it would be good for some of the people in these big city seats to go out to the country polling booths that might only get 85 people voting at them, and meet someone who sits out the front all day,” he said.
“They’d see how seriously people out here take their democracy and perhaps they could have a think about that during question time.”
One such volunteer, Sarah-Jane Banner, was a mother-of-four manning the tiny polling booth at Breeza, on the edge of the Liverpool Plains.
In the shade of a eucalyptus tree she sat from 8am to 6pm, cheerfully handing out how-to-vote cards to the 100 or so people who came through.
“I think places like this can make a huge difference,” she said.
“And having a party presence is very important because there are still people who turn up not sure which way they’re going to go. They see that Barnaby has someone in the community prepared to sit here like this and they see that there must be something he stands for which is relevant to local people,” she said.
About 50km away, in Duri, retired farm manager and shearer Doug Cooper sat down to cast a lonely vote in the village’s 100-year-old community hall.
A Labor voter his whole life, he stuck with the ALP yesterday, albeit begrudgingly.
Asked to rate the most recent Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government, the 70-year-old said it was “like rating pain”.
“I’d give them a one out of 10,” he said.
His wife, Di, said she simply hoped the result for Labor would prompt the party to restore some internal harmony.
“There are some good people in the Labor Party caucus and I hope that good will eventually prevail.”
Courtesy of The Sunday Telegraph