MEMBER for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay has been officially preselected as the Nationals’ candidate for the federal seat of New England.
Mr Torbay, who has served as an independent in State Parliament since 1999 and was Speaker from 2007 to 2011, was preselected unopposed by more than 100 local party members at a meeting in Tamworth on Saturday morning.
Mr Torbay said he was humbled by the level of support from party members.
“For the past couple of months I have been meeting with local party members right across the electorate, listening to their views, and I’m extremely glad that they have given me their endorsement here today,” he said.
Nationals leader Warren Truss welcomed Mr Torbay’s selection, claiming he would represent regional Australia well if elected.
“Having Richard Torbay as part of a strong Nationals team will ensure that the interests of the communities of the New England electorate and regional Australia will be well and truly on the table for the next Coalition government,” he said.
“He has proved he can work across all sectors and listens to the views of the community.
“That’s what the Nationals are all about, strong local advocates who are passionate about their communities and want to work together as a team to improve outcomes for the people living in regional Australia.”
Nationals Senator John Williams said the recruitment of Mr Torbay was the beginning of a strong challenge by the party for the seat, currently held by independent MP Tony Windsor.
“I see the next election in New England as a choice between a man who has achieved for his constituents over the past 13 years or a man who defied his constituents on the carbon tax, independent youth allowance and the support of the worst government this nation has seen,” he said.
Mr Torbay’s preselection comes after Mr Windsor launched a scathing attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in the House of Representatives last week.
During a Question Time debate on the carbon tax, Mr Windsor said Mr Abbott had “begged for the job” during negotiations to form a minority government in the days following the 2010 election.
“He begged for the job and he made the point, not only to me but to others in that negotiating period, that he would do anything to get that job,” he said.
Mr Windsor described Mr Abbott’s conduct on the issue of climate change as a “disgrace”.
“You [Abbott] have exactly the same targets as the emissions trading scheme pricing arrangements,” he said.
“You have exactly the same target in terms of the 1990 levels by 2020.
“And you have the audacity to actually say to people that you are going to achieve that target through a much more expensive arrangement than putting a price on carbon.”