The Tamworth Nationals chair has launched a scathing attack over reports of a rift in the ranks locally, over the Barnaby Joyce affair.
Ian Coxhead said he is “appalled” at suggestions local party members were too afraid to speak out, while blasting branch members for “airing their dirty laundry” through the media.
Last week, The Leader spoke to Tamworth National party members who thought it was time for Barnaby Joyce to stand down, however they did not wish to be named citing fear “fear of backlash”.
“That’s the way branch politics work, you speak-up and you’re on the outer,” one local Nationals member said.
However, branch chair Ian Coxhead was adamant the party was not divided.
“What garbage to indicate that members are afraid to speak up,” Mr Coxhead wrote in a letter to The Leader.
“There may be some people who have a different opinion to others, that is not the issue.
“The issue is airing their dirty laundry in public by going to the press instead of coming to a meeting and airing their grievances, so they can be discussed in a proper and adult manner.”
Mr Coxhead said the party members who spoke to the media were “taking liberties with the local branch by speaking on behalf of members without authority”.
“The Tamworth branch of the NSW Nationals takes this unauthorised action very seriously,” he said.
The public reprimand came the day after a controversial tell-all television interview involving Mr Joyce and his now-partner Vikki Campion, which aired on Sunday night.
During the hour-long program, Mr Joyce admitted he knew he’d have to step down once news of Ms Campion’s pregnancy broke.
“I suppose towards the end I was fighting more out of spite than logic, and just thinking I’m not going to let these people beat us,” he said.
The pair also revealed there had been pressure from parliamentary colleagues to terminate the pregnancy, but would not name names.
Ian Coxhead’s full letter
I am writing to you in reponse to the article on the front page of the NDL, Saturday 2nd June, titled: Nationals divide.
I am the chairman of the Tamworth Branch and have held this position for the past seven years. I am appalled at the story which contains so many mistruths and much innuendo.
This whole article has no foundation, except for Russell Webb speaking as the Chair of the New England Federal Electorate Council.
Not one reporter, or any other person, has made any attempt to contact me, our secretary, or treasurer, in regard to this story, before publication. This spurious article has done more damage to the Nationals brand and the Tamworth branch than any other single issue.
I am appalled at the comments in the article, particularly the accusation that the Tamworth branch is a closed shop, and if you dare have a different opinion and speak up, you are on the outer.
This comment calling for Barnaby Joyce to stand down has never been before the Tamworth Branch or even discussed informally, at any meeting.
In fact a motion of support was tabled at our February meeting, seconded, and put to the vote with a unanimous result and spontaneous applause.
This is the democratic way in which our meetings are conducted. Every meeting is open to all Nationals members and all issues are fully discussed with outcomes decided by the usual meeting process.
Every member at our meetings has the opportunity to speak for or against all motions put forward.
I take exception to the accusation of “fear of backlash”. What garbage to indicate that members are afraid to speak up. Every member present has the opportunity to have their say. The Nationals set their platform on this democratic process.
I would suggest this person has their own agenda for not bringing this issue to a meeting.
Why didn’t they follow their democratic process and air their thoughts at a meeting? After all, we meet monthly.
Instead, they chose to approach the press with a half-baked story full of mistruths.
In fact I would suggest Mr and Mrs anonymous have taken liberties with the local branch by speaking on behalf of members without authority.
The Tamworth Branch of the NSW Nationals takes this unauthorised action very seriously.
The Tamworth Branch of the Nationals are not divided. There may be some people who have a different opinion to others, that is not the issue.
The issue is airing their dirty laundry in public by going to the press instead of coming to a meeting and airing their grievances, so they can be discussed in a proper and adult manner.
It is normal Nationals pre-selection practice for a potential candidate to seek nomination from a local branch (there are eight branches in the New England electorate) or the New England federal electorate council.
Nothing abnormal there, any eligible member may seek pre-selection.
The same process applies for state elections.
Finally, Barnaby Joyce is not taking 11 weeks leave, he has four weeks sick leave, and then he will be back serving his electorate while parliament is in winter recess.
Chair, Tamworth Branch of the National party
Editor’s note – The story which appeared in The Northern Daily Leader on Saturday, June 2, did not suggest the sources quoted were speaking on behalf of the National Party. In addition, once it was clear Mr Joyce was taking two weeks leave, not 11 as had been reported earlier on the Friday, it was correctly reported.