Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Torbay or not Torbay

High drama in NSW parliament today.

The big story from a legislative point of view is the passing of the right to silence and case statement legislation - but I'm going to put off that blogpost until the Hansard is released (and, to be honest, until I'm a little less furious about what happened).

The shock news today was Richard Torbay suddenly announcing that he was resigning as the member for the Norther Tablelands seat.

In order to appreciate what is going on, it is necessary to step back and look at the history. Therefore, timeline:

1991: Appointed Chief Executive of University of New England Union

1991: Elected Councillor in Armidale

1996: Elected Mayor of Armidale

1998: Surrenders Labor Party membership and, allegedly on advice from Eddie Obeid, decides to run as an Independent in the seat Northern Tablelands

1999: Elected as Independent for Northern Tablelands, defeating the sitting Nationals member

2007: Appointed speaker by Morris Iemma

2009: Offered/is asked to become Premier (depends who you believe). Either way, it doesn't happen, and Kristina Keneally is elected by the Labor caucus.

2011: Upon the election of the Coalition government, is deposed as speaker

2013: Pre-selected to contest the Federal Seat of New England for the Nationals. That seat is held by Tony Windsor. Becomes a member of the National Party

20 March 2013: Asked to resign membership of the National Party after allegations surface that the Labor Party helped fund his 1999 campaign

Later on 20 March 2013: Resigns as member for Northern Tablelands saying "given the events of recent days and the toll it has taken on my family I feel the time has come to consider other options"

It was also revealed that the Nationals themselves had passed information relating to the Obeid connection onto ICAC.

It remains unclear what has happened, and why it has happened. No doubt in the days to come all parties will be speaking to journalists both off and on the record to try and ensure that history comes down on their side.

Precisely why these matters have been referred to ICAC is unclear. The fact that this has been done by the Nationals when the person in question is a member of the National Party is particularly surprising. No doubt many will be wondering whether Barnaby Joyce, the person tipped to seize the nomination, had anything to do with it.

It is equally unclear what may happen in the Northern Tablelands seat, although that is a blogpost for another day.

What is clear, in my view, is that there is a lot more to this story that we presently know. It should be fund seeing it unravel in the days to come.

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