Member for Holsworthy Melanie Gibbons has found herself in the midst of a controversial political squabble for being absent from Parliament twice in a fortnight.
The most recent absence was so she could attend her party’s Moorebank branch meeting – its annual general meeting – on June 5.
This followed her absence from Parliament on May 24, also to attend a branch meeting.
On both occasions, she tells us, she had been granted approval to leave Parliament.
Member for Liverpool Paul Lynch and Labor candidate for Holsworthy Charishma Kaliyanda have questioned the absences.
It follows speculation that Ms Gibbons’ absence from Parliament on June 5 was to support her partner, Kent Johns, in his campaign to win preselection for a federal seat.
Mr Lynch wrote to the Champion outlining his concerns about the May 24 absence.
“Perhaps the real reason the Member for Holsworthy doesn’t know anything about the traffic reports [as per our story last week] is that she’s too busy being preoccupied with internal Liberal Party machinations. And what was she doing missing Parliament for such reasons?”
Adding fuel to the fire, Ms Kaliyanda said residents had contacted her about this.
“Residents are appalled that she would miss the opportunity to represent the people of Holsworthy at Parliament in order to take part in internal Liberal Party disputes – and I agree with them!
“Ms Gibbons deliberately left the people of Holsworthy without a representative in Parliament on two separate occasions. While she's busy prioritising the internal squabbles of the Liberal Party, people are still being hit by fines because of inadequate commuter parking, they're facing the rising cost of living and dealing with trains that just don't run on time.
“Furthermore, when the Premier was questioned on the floor of Parliament [by Paul Lynch about Ms Gibbons’ absence], she could not answer. As a resident and constituent of Holsworthy, I'm pretty appalled.”
Ms Gibbons referred to her absence at the meetings.
“When we questioned the choice of time we were told it was to suit the [now former] president's diary. Unfortunately it didn't work with mine. The meetings were for my branch so I thought it important to be there. There are suggestions there was more to it than that but really it’s just a co-incidence, after all I've been attending these meetings for close to a decade.”
A story by The Sydney Morning Herald suggested the meetings may have been scheduled to deliberately clash: “The fact the meetings of the Moorebank branch were organised for Parliamentary sitting periods was an attempt by Ms Gibbons’ rivals to prevent her from attending.”
Ms Gibbons notes her approval to leave both meetings.
“I was at Parliament both before and after the meeting on June 5. I had leave for just a few hours and missed no votes on government business. Unfortunately my branch AGM was called at the same time as question time. Being at my branch meeting is also important to my role.
“All members have the opportunity to seek leave to go back to their electorates when they need. It’s not uncommon. The branch and I have requested future meetings be held at more suitable times.”
Ms Gibbons proceeded to hit back at the Labor party members.
“I'm getting tired of Labor trying to sling mud at me and misleading the public. Surely they have better things to do with their time.
“Since this time last year, I've asked 13 questions in question time. Mr Lynch has asked two. I’d suggest he stop focusing on me and start concentrating on representing his electorate.”
Response: Ryan Park claims
Earlier this month, Shadow Treasurer Ryan Park called for the NSW Government’s commitment to Holsworthy in the 2018 budget.
“There’s not enough classrooms and there’s maintenance backlog at this school in particular. It’s not the time to spend on stadiums,” he said.
However, Melanie Gibbons said Mr Park’s claims were outdated.
“The NSW Liberal and National Government announced we will build 10 new permanent future-focused teaching spaces at Prestons Public School with an extension of the administration building and outdoor learning spaces. This is on top of plans for additional classrooms at Liverpool West Public School and Marsden Road Public School.
“The Government is investing in excess of $4.2 billion over four years to deliver more than 120 new and upgraded schools. This is the largest investment in public school infrastructure in NSW history. This Government is also investing a record $747 million over the next four years to address maintenance in schools. In the last four years of the Labor Government they only committed $214m.
“It really disappoints me that the Labor Party are spreading misinformation - when they know full well that we are doing more than they ever did, when they were last in government.”