THE ACTING president of the Australian Labor Party’s Armidale branch has called on aspiring Nationals candidate Richard Torbay to state his position on federal issues such as the mining tax and the national broadband network.
Acting president John Scott (pictured) said the local debate should extend beyond the personal popularity of candidates.
“National Party polling suggests Mr Torbay could win the seat for them, but as far as the local branch is concerned, we’re hoping for a focus on the policies, not personalities,” he said.
“A vote for Richard would be a vote for Tony Abbott and a DLP-style Government. Both the Nationals and the Liberals support the big end of town, not rural and regional Australia.”
Mr Scott said Mr Torbay would be held to account for his party’s decisions if he was preselected.
“Joining a party isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes very hard to be chameleon-like and change your position,” he said. “Unfortunately, Richard is going to be roped into having to explain the decisions of Tony Abbott.”
He said Mr Torbay should outline his views on issues such as communication, taxation and climate change.
“We’d like to know his views on climate change, on whether multi-national mining companies need to pay their dues and whether he still supports the NBN,” he said.
Mr Torbay said he would be happy to speak to local members of the branch about his views if he is preselected to represent the Nationals.
“If I’m preselected I will sit down with them so they can outline issues and I can express my views to them about the issues raised,” he said. “I’m happy to do that to anyone with concerns, including members of the Labor Party.”
Mr Torbay’s relationship with the ALP has been under renewed scrutiny after the party’s NSW general secretary, Sam Dastyari claimed the Northern Tablelands MP offered to rejoin Labor in 2009 if he was guaranteed the numbers to become premier.
Mr Torbay has denied the allegations and has been backed up by former Labor minister John Della Bosca, who said Torbay had rejected any suggestion he would join the party.
“My recollection was very much that Richard held out hopes of becoming premier on the basis of remaining an independent,” he said.
“He said, ‘I can’t join the party, so there is no point in continuing this discussion’.”
Mr Torbay said Mr Della Bosca’s comments “stated the truth and shows the situation for exactly what it is”.