IN JUST 24 hours and a day of high drama, Richard Torbay stepped away from political high office not once, not twice, but three times if you count his academic role.
In what looked like a rolling round of resignations, the normally loquacious Torbay was silence personified and it was left to his office and others he has represented to distribute statements of his departure and what to everyone looked more like a public fall from grace in the manner of his retirements.
The first bombshell was of course not of his doing, but came from the NSW Nationals office of chairman Nial Blair to media just before 8pm on Tuesday.
It announced that Mr Torbay had withdrawn as the party’s candidate for New England. He revealed the party had found out something, something from before he became a National, and that they’d asked him to withdraw, and to resign. He’d done that, it said, and they would find another candidate.
At 11.18pm Tuesday when most of us had gone to bed wondering what the hell was going on, a statement came from Mr Torbay’s office.
It said simply: “A number of claims have been made today(sic) by the Labor Party and Tony Windsor’s office.
“I have decided in the interests of the people of the New England electorate and the National Party to withdraw my candidacy for the forthcoming federal election.
“Given the current toxic political environment I do not want to put my family, the community or myself through an ongoing smear campaign.
“In relation to this speculation I have taken legal advice and shall be acting on that advice.”
While everyone was trying to work out how it had come to that, the next bomb exploded.
It came, again in a missive from his office, at 10.51am yesterday and was equally as explosive as it was devoid of the detail the media has come to expect from the expressive, one-time university union services manager.
“Richard Torbay will resign his Northern Tablelands seat today ending 14 years in the NSW Parliament.
“‘My intention always was to leave the state seat this year but have brought it forward,” Mr Torbay said.
“‘I have enjoyed my years in public life serving the communities of the Northern Tablelands.
“‘Their support for me has been overwhelming and heart-warming and I thank them for it.
“‘We have achieved some great things together and I will always cherish the friendships I have made and the interaction I have had with people during my time as MP’.
“Mr Torbay said the downside of politics was the continual strain on family and private life.
“‘It is demanding and time consuming to do the job properly and 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,” he said.
“‘My wife Rosemary, my children and my extended family have always been extremely supportive during my time in politics.
“‘They are my priority and I strongly believe that now is the time for them and they have encouraged me to make this decision’.”
He said his electorate office would remain open and all inquiries should be directed to that office.
His third resignation came at 11.30am yesterday when the UNE distributed a media release saying its chancellor had announced he was standing down from his position, effective immediately.
It said although Mr Torbay had previously announced he would step down on April19, he had decided to bring that date forward.
Vice-chancellor Jim Barber said he respected Mr Torbay’s decision and was grateful for his efforts as chancellor over the past four-and-a-half years.
“Richard’s long association with UNE dates back to 1980 when he took up a position at UNE Union, later becoming the chief executive officer,” Mr Barber said.
“I want to thank Richard for his counsel during my time as vice-chancellor and for his strong leadership of UNE Council, which has guided UNE into the healthy financial position in which it finds itself today.
“Richard has served on the UNE Council with distinction since 1996 before being elected chancellor in 2008.”