With pressure mounting against disgraced Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire to vacate his seat, the city’s leaders are questioning whether the scandal could shatter Wagga’s status as a ‘safe seat’.
Mr Maguire announced he had resigned to the crossbench on Friday after secret recordings of him discussing kickbacks from property deals were played at a corruption inquiry.
Wagga City Councillor Paul Funnell said this simply was not good enough; he called for Mr Maguire to vacate his seat altogether and said he hoped this marked the end of Wagga’s days as a safe seat.
“He cannot remain even as a crossbencher – he has brought disrepute upon the city by his action, and we cannot afford to have that as the largest inland city in NSW,” Cr Funnell said.
“This is what has gone wrong with party politics – too many members are toeing the party line instead of representing the people in their electorates.”
Cr Funnell said it was time for some strong, independent leadership for Wagga and, should Mr Maguire succumb to the pressure against him to quit, he had not ruled out running for the seat himself.
“If the parties can’t get someone who is strong enough to stand up to them and represent the people and what they need, if we keep getting party hacks, then the independents are the only way to go,” he said.
“I’m not ruling anything in and I’m not ruling anything out, but, since this happened on Friday, I’ve had multiple calls from people asking me to stand as an independent.”
However, despite sharing Cr Funnell’s frustrations towards members who use their positions to toe the party line, former Liberal Party member Julian McLaren said he did not believe an independent candidate was in Wagga’s best interests.
“The problem with independents is they only tend to be effective if there’s a hung parliament, so I would sooner have a local member who’s inside the government rather than sitting on the crossbench,” Mr McLaren said.
“When you’re part of the party, you’ve got closer access to the treasury bench so you’re able to get much better outcomes for your electorate by lobbying the treasurer and the premier directly.”
While he admitted there was no obvious successor for Mr Maguire from his own party, Mr McLaren said he was “pretty confident” the Liberals and Nationals would not back separate candidates to create a three-cornered contest should the seat become vacant.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian released a statement on Sunday confirming that she had received Mr Maguire’s resignation and urging him to carefully reconsider whether or not he should remain on the crossbench until the state election next March.
“Whilst it is for Mr Maguire alone to determine whether he stays on as the elected member until next March, I would encourage him to think carefully as to whether he can effectively represent the people of Wagga Wagga from here on in,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We will also be bringing forward the opening nominations for the seat of Wagga Wagga so that an appropriate new candidate for the Liberal Party can be preselected.”
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