Aspiring federal Nationals candidate Richard Torbay yesterday denied claims that he approached the NSW Labor Party in a bid to become premier in 2009.
The Northern Tablelands MP said the claims were “dirty tactics” against him after he confirmed he would run for preselection with the Nationals to take on independent Tony Windsor in the seat of New England on Friday.
“It’s nothing more than a smear campaign and a desperate attempt by Labor to protect the federal independents who are keeping them in government,” he said.
NSW ALP general secretary Sam Dastyari alleged that Mr Torbay, who was a member of the party prior to entering state politics, pulled $200 out of his wallet and pledged to rejoin the party if he could be guaranteed the numbers to become premier.
“Torbay called me into his Speaker’s office and said he would rejoin the Labor Party if he would be made premier the next day,” he told the media. “I told him it wouldn’t and couldn’t happen, that it was too late and the party wouldn’t wear it.”
Mr Dastyari, who was assistant general secretary at the time, said the meeting occurred on December 2, the night before Kristina Keneally replaced embattled Premier Nathan Rees.
He claims to have rejected Mr Torbay’s offer.
Mr Torbay described Mr Dastyari’s comments as a “complete lie”.
“When Labor operatives suddenly emerge from the backroom to make false claims without a shred of supporting evidence, it is surprising anyone could take it seriously,” he said.
Mr Torbay, who was Speaker under the Labor government from 2007-2011, told the media in 2009 that he had been informally approached by former minister John Della Bosca to join the party with the offer of the position of premier. He refused the offer.
“In those days it was a case of spin the bottle to find someone to replace Premier Nathan Rees, who was being dumped,” he said. “I made it quite clear I would not consider joining the party and that was the end of it. That was reported extensively in the media.”
Nationals leader Warren Truss said the allegations showed
desperation from the ALP.
“The Labor Party has been exposed with another bare-faced lie, this time trying to smear the reputation of a man who only 48 hours ago decided he would seek preselection for the Nationals,” he said.
“It shows that the poison of deceit and treachery runs deep in the ALP.
“They are desperate and prepared to smear anyone to remain in power.”
Mr Torbay said the allegations were a distraction from issues affecting regional areas.
“The whole thing should be dismissed for the muckracking sham it is, and we all would be much
better off concentrating on policies and outcomes for people in rural and regional NSW,” he said.