By Adam Coleman
Independent MP Richard Torbay has accepted the position as the next speaker of the NSW Parliament on the condition that NSW Premier Morris Iemma sets up an independent taskforce on regional issues.
Premier Iemma agreed to the condition and Mr Torbay will chair the taskforce that has rural and regional healthcare, the environment and infrastructure among its top priorities.
Mr Torbay, along with other country independents, will advise Premier Iemma on major issues confronting rural and regional areas.
Organisations expected to be invited to participate in the taskforce included the Farmers’ and Country Women’s Associations and the Local Government and Shires Associations.
President of the NSW Farmers’ Association, Jock Laurie, says the move comes after repeated calls from the Association for a rural summit.
“The NSW Farmers’ Association has been calling for a rural summit so as to find solutions to the problems facing regional NSW. To do this the Government needs to listen to the people who live in these communities,” he said.
“This taskforce will ensure that the NSW government is kept across all the issues affecting the state’s rural and regional areas.”
He said the taskforce will gather input from people in rural areas, “which we see as being very important”.
Mr Torbay said as speaker he will run the lower house of parliament with fairness and objectivity.
“I have accepted this offer on the strict understanding that I will carry out my functions without fear or favour and in order to return the parliament to a democratic forum in which every member can get a fair deal without the shadow of favouritism hanging over the speaker’s decisions,” he said in a statement.
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