ON THE day nominations opened for a National Party replacement candidate to carry the party’s hopes in the battle for the federal seat of New England, its federal parliamentary leader Warren Truss said a number of “high-profile locals” and “long-standing National Party members” had indicated their interest in standing for the seat.
He said inevitably though, it would be up to those individuals to indicate their candidature.
Mr Truss was in Tamworth to talk roads and bridges with Tamworth Regional Council, but the trip to Tamworth was originally organised to officially open Richard Torbay’s New England campaign office. But following Mr Torbay’s dumping by the party earlier in the week, the purpose of the visit changed.
Despite rumours NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner may have been approached to stand for the seat, Mr Truss said Mr Stoner had dismissed any suggestion he would contest New England.
“Mr Stoner is doing a good job as the deputy premier and has indicated he won’t stand because he believes he has more to do,” Mr Truss said.
Mr Truss said when Richard Torbay was disendorsed he had initially been unaware of the decision and the circumstances surrounding it.
“It was a state National Party decision to disendorse Mr Torbay because of the information that had come to light,” he said.
“I was irritated I had not been informed but understand the decision was based on the information presented and subsequent legal advice.”
Mr Truss said he was still in the dark about the specific issues that resulted in Mr Torbay being referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption and that he believed the party had asserted due diligence when selecting Mr Torbay.
“At the time of the pre-selection Mr Torbay was well-known in this area, he had been the mayor and the state member and had a high profile,” he said.
“It’s deeply disappointing that a man who had done so many things in his community had things in his past that were not known to the people of the electorate and the people of our party.”
Mr Truss said The Nationals were now committed to finding a voice for the people of the New England electorate.
“The choice of who comes next will be the choice of several hundred New England National Party members,” Mr Truss said.
“Those members will meet on the weekend of April 13 and 14 to make that choice.”
Mr Truss said the party was keen to make sure the candidate for New England was the voice the people wanted and that, before recent events, he truly believed Mr Torbay would have won the seat.
Should Barnaby Joyce throw his hat into the ring Mr Truss said he had no doubt he would be “an excellent candidate”.
“I will be backing whoever is chosen by the local people,” he said.
“I think there will be others also, who would be good candidates and would be very powerful representatives.”
Admitting the party would have to work hard, Mr Truss said the goal would now be to make sure residents of the electorate were aware of the party’s policies and platforms.
“We will work hard at it and are confident we can run a good campaign,” he said.
“We are also confident we will have a good candidate and that we can win.”
Nominations for The Nationals pre-selection close on Tuesday, April 2.