Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Hopeful ‘ear for regional’ under new leadership

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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.

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