A Nationals MP’s take on Obeid and Torbay: From the Parliamentary Record

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a commissioned piece dealing with the associations NSW Labor figures Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald developed with the minor parties and independents on the crossbenches of the NSW Parliament over the years Labor was in office.

It deals in part with Obeid’s association with former Nationals canddiate, Richard Torbay, leading up to the 1999 State Election, through his election as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the plan conceived in desperation to recruit Torbay to the ALP and install him as Premier.

The piece is still a work in progress. What is on the public record are a series of Parliamentary motions and speeches, made by a member of the National Party, The Hon. Melinda Pavey MLC, about some of those links between Obeid and the independents, and in particular, his association with Torbay. These contributions were made whilst Torbay was an independent, prior to his joining The Nationals and winning preselection to take on Tony Windsor in the seat of New England in this year’s election.

Here are a series of excerpts from the notice paper and Hansard:

On 23 May 2006, Pavey gave notice of the following motion:

5. Mrs Pavey to move—

1. That this House notes:

(a) the return of the Honourable Eddie Obeid to political dominance as the chief puppeteer in the NSW Labor Government,

(b) the control the Terrigal sub faction has of the NSW State Government lead by the Honourable Eddie Obeid, with the assistance of the Honourable Michael Costa and his sidekick the Honourable Eric Roozendaal, the Honourable John Hazistergos, the Honourable Joe Tripodi and the elevation of their own, the Honourable Morris Iemma, to the Premiership, and

(c) that since the 2003 State Election, the Honourable Eddie Obeid has not spoken on any legislation before this House and only risen to ask four Dorothy Dixer’s this year,

2. That this House calls on the Honourable Eddie Obeid to explain his conversation with the Mayor of Pittwater, Patricia Giles, that he encouraged her to leave the Christian Democrats Party to run as an independent with Labor Party support in the upcoming Pittwater by-election,

3. That this House further notes:

(a) that the Independent Party Member for Manly, by his silence, has affirmed the serious allegation that the Honourable Eddie Obeid told Patricia Giles if she ran as an independent he could guarantee Labor party support,

(b) the continued close relationship of the Honourable Eddie Obeid as a strategist with the Member for Northern Tablelands, Richard Torbay’s Independent Party,

(c) that the Honourable Eddie Obeid was instrumental in Labor’s decision not to run in the Dubbo by-election last November, deserting the local ALP membership and providing back door support to Richard Torbay’s candidate Dawn Fardell,

(d) that Labor support in Dubbo has slumped from 36% in 1984 to 29% in 1991 to 15% in 2003,

(e) that Labor’s support in Tamworth has dropped from 34.9% in 1984 to 15.6% in 1991 to 11.9% in 2003,

(f) that Labor’s support in Northern Tablelands has dropped from 49% in 1984 to 31.6% in 1991 to 4.7% in 2003, and

(g) that Labor’s support in Port Macquarie has dropped from 30.4% in 1984 to 22.5 % in 1991 to 8.4% in 2003.

4. That this House calls on Premier Iemma to have the courage to distance himself from the Honourable Eddie Obeid, despite the enormous debt he owes him, because of the subversive and devious tactics the Honourable Eddie Obeid uses to undermine the democratic process in New South Wales.

On the following day, 24 May 2006:, she spoke immediately after Obeid on the occasion of the Lietenant General’s speech to mark the 150th anniversary of representative government in NSW:

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY [9.34 p.m.]: Like the Hon. Eddie Obeid, I was pleased to be part of the historic occasion on Monday celebrating 150 years of the oldest legislature in Australia. Coincidentally, I too was moved by the  words by the Lieutenant-Governor about politics and our democracy, and the liberty that we enjoy in our State and country. At this point we should all reflect on the words of the Hon. Murray Gleeson, which were repeated by the Lieutenant-Governor: Politics is what makes a representative democracy work. To despise politics is to despise democracy.

I would argue very strongly that the Hon. Eddie Obeid has done much in this State of New South Wales to make people despise politics and politicians. I am not referring to matters he referred to in the speech he has just delivered; I am referring to the dirty, grubby little deals he does with the so-called Independent members of this Parliament.

[Point of Order taken]

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: To the point of order: I was referring to comments made by the Hon. Eddie Obeid in his speech about democracy in this State—that precious thing that we all enjoy. I felt it appropriate to put on the record in the budget reply the Hon. Eddie Obeid’s involvement in the establishment of the “Independent Party” in New South Wales.

[Point of Order taken]

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: In relation to liberty and democracy in New South Wales, politics is what makes a representative democracy work. To despise politics is to despise democracy. I believe that in New South Wales there is a very strong undercurrent being perpetrated by members in this place to make people despise politicians and politics by encouraging people of an Independent or so-called Independent persuasion—and I use the example of Richard Torbay, the member for Northern Tablelands, who previously was a member of the Labor Party and is a strong associate of the Hon. Eddie Obeid. The Hon. Eddie Obeid has been instrumental in acting for and giving advice to Richard Torbay, and through Richard Torbay to Dawn Fardell and Peter Draper, all members representing constituencies in regional New South Wales. I contend further that there was evidence during the recent Pittwater by-election that the Hon. Eddie Obeid had considerable involvement with Alex McTaggart—

[Point of Order taken]

The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY: To the point of order: The Lieutenant-Governor’s Speech specifically addressed democracy and the respect that the people of New South Wales must have for the democratic process. I am outlining the situation and the involvement of the Hon. Eddie Obeid with Independent members of Parliament, and it is relevant—

On 11 May 2011, after the election of the Coalition Government (which incidentally saw Pavey take over Obeid’s Legislative Council office with the change in accommodation), she noted the election result in an adjournment speech:

I cannot believe the number of visitors I have had to my office in the past 24 hours—people wanting to look at what was the inner sanctum. They have mostly been interested to see whether there are stains on the walls or carpets. There are no stains. The relationship between Eddie Obeid and Richard Torbay should also be addressed. In some respects that relationship had a positive impact for the Labor Party because it kept the Liberal Party and The Nationals incredibly busy fighting hard contests in many regional seats, not against the Labor Party but against the Independents—and history will record that. Phillip Hanna, who was Richard Torbay’s campaign director, has very strong family connections with Eddie Obeid.

The Labor Party needs to engage in some self-reflection because we need strong political parties in New South Wales. The vote in Northern Tablelands for the Labor Party in 1995 was 36.3 per cent; it is now down to 3.4 per cent. Between 1981 and 1987 Bill McCarthy, a very fine Labor member who had a good standing in the community, held the seat of Northern Tablelands. Labor is now down to 3.4 per cent of the vote from the high watermark when it held the seat, which was lost in a by-election. Labor Party branches throughout the regions have collapsed. The Labor vote in Tamworth is down to 4 per cent and in Port Macquarie it is down to 3 per cent. Yes, the game has been on—and it has involved not just the Hon. Eddie Obeid. The Hon. Tony Kelly, Bob Carr and Eric Roozendaal have also been involved; it was a strategy from the highest level. [Time expired.]

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