THE independent NSW state MP Richard Torbay has agreed to join the Nationals to take on Tony Windsor in the federal seat of New England as long as he could speak freely and cross the floor as a member of an Abbott government.
Mr Torbay, who has represented the state seat of Northern Tablelands as an independent since 1999, will join the Nationals leader, Warren Truss, in Armidale this morning to formally announce he will seek preselection as the party’s candidate for New England.
Mr Torbay said yesterday the deal included him maintaining a degree of autonomy. Asked if he had insisted on the freedom to cross the floor, he said ”absolutely”.
”I’d take it straight to the party room and say: ‘This is my strong view’,” Mr Torbay said of issues he felt strongly about. ”I’d be looking to influence as many people as I can.
”If it obviously is such a serious issue that it cuts across the grain of my community then I indicated clearly I’d be voting that way as well.
”That’s … the condition I wanted to put on the table before these discussions went anywhere.”
Mr Torbay had been approached by the Liberal Party and Bob Katter’s Australian Party about eight months ago to stand in New England.
The NSW Nationals senator John William received a call telling him he should ring Mr Torbay and began talks to lure him to the Nationals.
The preselection ballot is not due until early next year. Mr Torbay said he would join the Nationals to qualify for preselection but stay as an independent in State Parliament until he had to leave.
This means he would be a National but not sit with the state Nationals in their party room.
Mr Torbay said there was nothing personal against Mr Windsor, who he has known for a long time. But he believed the independent brand has been damaged by Mr Windsor and Rob Oakeshott siding with Labor to form minority government.
”They’ve really become advocates for the Labor government, as opposed to independents assessing matters and voting on those issues accordingly,” he said.
Mr Windsor, who plans to recontest his seat, said it was too early to start debating his potential rival but was keen to engage once the election was called.
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