Tony Windsor dropped his bombshell allegations in Parliament tonight claiming that Tamworth businessman Greg Maguire had attempted to “bribe” him with the blessing of deputy Prime Minister John Anderson and National Party Senator Sandy Macdonald.

The 7.30 Report did well to keep viewers informed as they twice returned to political editor Michael Brissendon as Windsor dropped his allegation at around 7.30pm and then National Party leader John Anderson entered the chamber and issued his denial at about 8pm.

The L Plate speaker David Hawker agreed to extend proceedings to 8.10pm so that Anderson could finish his explanation but then he shut down teh house 7 minutes earlier than the extended sitting time as Mark Latham stepped forward to have his say.

Senator Macdonald issued a 3 line denial so the whole saga will turn on what Greg Maguire says and he has not yet surfaced. John Anderson’s defence is looking good to the extent that his travel records show he was in Queensland on the night he was alleged to have met with Maguire to discuss the offer of a diplomatic or trade posting to get Windsor out of the former National Party seat of New England.

Anderson is one of the most honest blokes to have served in the Australian Parliament so it is hard to believe he would have been so stupid. However, he also was panic-stricken about the rise of independents like Tony Windsor and Bob Katter in National Party territory and it certainly would have helped the party if Windsor had pursued another career.

The use of the word “bribe” is a bit emotive in this situation. Countless politicians have been induced over the years to leave their seats to take up new government appointments, but Nick Greiner and Terry Metherell showed how it can go awfully wrong.

Did the Hawke Government “bribe” Brian Burke to resign as WA Premier by offering him the Ambassador’s gig in Ireland? Certainly not.

However, it can get very messy when these things happen outside political parties and that’s why Windsor’s claims could yet seriously hurt the Nationals. Inducing a factional mate to vacate a seat is one thing. Using a taxpayer funded position to lure a rival politician out of key seat is in a different league.

Margo Kingston has a good summary on tonight’s developments with links on her webdiary here.

Peter Fray

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