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This Cafe Is "Switzerland" In The Battle For New England

The neutral ground of Cafe 2340 in Tamworth, New South Wales, has staff acting as mediators for protesters and political staffers alike in the battle for New England.

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"We're nice and Switzerland in the middle," says Joanne Kelly, owner of Cafe 2340, a coffee shop in the middle of Tamworth that has found itself situated between deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and rival independent candidate Tony Windsor's electorate offices.

Three months ago, the office buildings either side of Cafe 2340 changed hands from employment offices to political bases. Occupied by the staff of Barnaby Joyce and Tony Windsor respectively, the offices now represent ground zero in one of the most interesting matchups of the 2016 election - the battle for New England.

Having retired from politics in 2013, Tony Windsor spectacularly announced his return to politics months ago. He's hoping to end the career of the deputy prime minister and leader of the Nationals, Barnaby Joyce.

While Windsor still has his share of support from locals, some are sceptical of the 65-year-old after he famously sided with Julia Gillard's Labor government following the 2010 election. For some locals, a vote for Windsor means a vote for the Labor party.

Kelly, who has owned her cafe for eight years, says the rival offices popped up at almost the same time – but Joyce was in first.

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"We thought 'there's some Nationals going in next door', and before we knew it Tony [Windsor] was looking in the other side," she told BuzzFeed News. "We thought, 'oh, this could be exciting'".

"They're both very busy, you can see it's all warmed up" says Kelly, who refuses to reveal which way she leans between the two parties, preferring to remain neutral in the battle for New England.

"I haven't decided yet. They've both come in and Tony's always been a customer of ours. They're lovely. Their entourage and everyone comes in with them. It's created a lot of open chat."

The arrival of Joyce and Windsor's offices has changed the discussions being held in Cafe 2340 as representatives from both sides venture in for their morning coffee or a snack.

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"It's good", says Kelly. "Everyone's talking. It creates a lot of talk. I don't think if we weren't in the middle it would be that exciting."

Neither party has attempted to put their campaign posters up in Cafe 2340, resisting the urge to march over the unclaimed space between them.

"They've been really good, right from the start", said Kelly. "We said 'you can come in here and we'll have a roundtable and everyone can have a chat'. We're just trying to take a bit of the pressure off."

Both Joyce and Windsor have vocal groups of supporters and detractors - most recently a group of unionists who came to protest outside Joyce's office on Tuesday.

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The offices are so close to each other that it's easy for protests to spill over the designated battle grounds and into the neutral space of Cafe 2340, forcing Kelly to manage the chaos.

"We had the guys from the unions yesterday protesting outside Barnaby's office, and they were sticking stickers everywhere," says Kelly. "I said 'excuse me sir, can you not stick stickers in this area', and he thought it meant I'm pro-Barnaby. But really I said it's because we're neutral here. We're Switzerland."

Kelly and her staff seem content to manage the neutral ground for now, happy with the excitement that comes with the latter stages of any political campaign.

Brad Esposito for BuzzFeed News

"I don't think there's a nasty side, we don't think we'll get to see it," she said.

Kelly's daughter, Sam, who works as a barista at the cafe, has memorised both leaders' coffee orders.

"Tony always orders a large cappuccino," she says, "and Barnaby gets a flat white."

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

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