Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Hopeful ‘ear for regional’ under new leadership
New South Wales was rocked with the news of former Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation from politics on Friday, and again when former Deputy Premier John Barilaro resigned in similar fashion on Monday.
Ms Berejiklian made the ‘‘extremely difficult decision’’ after being advised the Independent Commission Against Corruption would announce she was being investigated concerning matters relating to the former member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire.
Mr Maguire, who was in an intimate relationship with Ms Berejiklian when she became Premier, resigned from politics in 2018 after admitting at a corruption inquiry to seeking payment for a property deal.
NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton called on Ms Berejiklian to resign in October 2020, when she spoke in favour of a no confidence motion on the NSW Premier in parliament.
In her speech, the Murray MP criticised the Premier’s failure to act over Mr Maguire’s dealings with a Leeton-based agribusiness — a town in Mrs Dalton’s own electorate and not Mr Maguire’s.
‘‘In ICAC hearings last year, the Premier told ICAC she did not know what Leeton agribusiness United World Enterprises (UWE) was,’’ Mrs Dalton said.
‘‘But a tapped phone call revealed that she talked about UWE with Daryl Maguire back in 2017.
‘‘UWE once paid for Mr Maguire to fly to China and look for investors for its business. This was not appropriate for a Member of Parliament.’’
The Premier also approved $30 million for the Riverina Regional Conservatorium in Wagga, allegedly without disclosing she was in a relationship with the Member for Wagga, and Mrs Dalton understands this funding was more than the combined amount all other regional conservatoria received.
On Tuesday, former Treasurer Dominic Perrottet was voted in as NSW Liberal party leader and Premier in a party room vote, 39 votes to five.
On Wednesday, member for Bathurst Paul Toole was voted in as Nationals Party leader for the state and Deputy Premier, beating Water Minister Melinda Pavey.
Mr Toole has been Minister for Regional Transport and Roads since April 2019.
Since 2011, he has represented the electorate of Bathurst for the Nationals in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.
Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan said the resignations of both Ms Berejiklian and Mr Barilaro were a surprise, but also an opportunity for his council.
‘‘I was surprised John Barilaro threw his hat out of the ring.
‘‘Hopefully it’s for the positive — we need to get some traction for rural and regional areas,’’ Cr Brennan said.
He said his focus would be on building relationships with the offices of the new state leaders, and making further efforts on advocating for issues affecting the town, including topics in council’s advocacy strategy focusing on the airport, healthcare and telecommunications.
Edward River Council has struggled in recent months to gain support for its airport runway upgrades, costing up to $5 million.
Mr Barilaro, in his role as Minister for Regional NSW, has reportedly given verbal approval to council for part funding of the project, however formal approval of the grant never arrived.
The project was forced to a halt and a council vote in July carried a recommendation to downgrade the scale of the works.
‘‘(Toole) is a regional person so he should have a good appreciation for our area,’’ Cr Brennan said.
‘‘It will be interesting to see how it (their leadership) develops.’’
Cr Brennan said Mr Toole had been a promising ear for regional communities in the past, including during the amalgamation of Deniliquin and Conargo councils.
‘‘In the early days of mergers, he was the local government minister. I met with him a couple of times and he gave me a decent hearing.’’
The new party leaders are expected to tour regional NSW as early as two weeks from now.