Richard Torbay

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The Honourable
Richard Torbay
Hon Richard Torbay MP, Speaker of the House.jpg
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Northern Tablelands
In office
27 March 1999 – 20 March 2013
Preceded by Ray Chappell
Succeeded by Adam Marshall
30th Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
In office
8 May 2007 – 2 May 2011
Preceded by John Aquilina
Succeeded by Shelley Hancock
Personal details
Born (1961-03-26) 26 March 1961 (age 56)
Belmore, New South Wales, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Independent (state)
National (federal, 2012-2013)
Occupation Politician
Website Parliamentary webpage

George Richard Torbay (born 26 March 1961), an Australian politician, was an independent member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Northern Tablelands from 1999 to 2013. Torbay was the 30th Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, serving from 2007 until 2011, and was the first independent member to be Speaker of the House since 1913. Prior to his election to State parliament, he served as Mayor of Armidale City Council from 1995 to 1998.[1][2]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in 1961, Torbay was educated at Kingswood High School. He was elected to Armidale City Council in 1991 and was a Councillor 1991–98. He was the Deputy Mayor 1992–93, and Mayor 1995–98. He also established Armidale City Council: Public Relations Committee in 1993 and Youth Council in 1993.

His involvement in local government also extended to being Chairman New England Local Government Group 1997–98; Chairman NSW Country Mayor's Association 1997–98 and Member Water Supply and Resources Committee of the Local Government and Shires Association 1996.

He is married with three children.[2]

State political career[edit]

In 1999, he challenged the former Nationals Minister, Ray Chappell, for the seat of Northern Tablelands, running as an independent candidate. In a surprise result, Torbay defeated Chappell, winning 44.15 per cent of the primary vote to Chappell's 34.09 per cent, with a two-party preferred margin of 59.37 per cent.[3] This continued a longstanding trend of country voters in NSW rejecting the Nationals in favour of locally-based independents.

Torbay was comfortably re-elected at the 2003 and 2007 general elections, each time taking over 70 percent of the primary and over 80 percent of the two-party vote.

He accepted an offer by Premier Morris Iemma to become Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, a position usually filled by a member of the governing party.[4]

Following the election of the O'FarrellStoner Liberal/National coalition government at the 2011 general election, Torbay was replaced as Speaker by the Liberals' Shelley Hancock.[5] At this election, even though he suffered a swing of over 10 percent amid the massive Coalition wave that swept through the state, he still managed to retain his seat with a comfortable majority of 19.2 percent.

In August 2012, Torbay was pre-selected as the National Party candidate for the federal seat of New England for the 2013 election, challenging former fellow state independent and current sitting member Tony Windsor.[6] However, he continued to sit as an independent in the state parliament, and did not join the NSW Nationals party room.

Polls consistently showed Torbay well-positioned to reclaim the seat that had been in National hands for 79 years before Windsor won it in 2001. However, in a surprise move on 19 March 2013, the Nationals forced Torbay to stand down as their candidate in New England and resign his party membership.[7] It Later that night, the Nationals referred information about him to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.[8][9] The following morning Torbay also resigned his seat in State Parliament.[10]

It later emerged that the Nationals received word that Torbay had received illicit donations from Labor interests to run against National candidates in Northern Tablelands. They were also alarmed by his ties to Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid, who at the time was the target of the biggest corruption investigation in NSW history.[11] Torbay reportedly also faced questions surrounding his ownership of 20 Centrelink buildings dating back to John Howard's tenure as Prime Minister.[12]

Other appointments[edit]

In 1991, Torbay was the Chief Executive of the University of New England Union having previously started at the university as a kitchen hand in 1980.[13] In 2008, he was elected the Chancellor of the University of New England.[14] In 2007 Torbay received an honorary doctorate from the University of New England.[13]


  1. ^ Nicholls, Matt (3 April 2014). "Torbay in limbo". Star News Group Pty. Ltd. Armidale Independent. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "The Hon. (Richard) George Richard Torbay, MP". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Green, Antony (2009). "Elections for the District of Northern Tablelands". New South Wales Elections Database. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 6 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Iemma's surprise: an independent Speaker". Sydney Morning Heraldo. Fairfax Media. 29 March 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "Female speaker makes NSW history". 702 ABC Sydney. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Torbay preselected for New England". The Land. Fairfax Media. 20 August 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Shields, Bevan; Sheridan, Haley; Robertson, James (19 March 2013). "Torbay dumped by Nationals; Joyce eyes a run". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "ICAC officers search Torbay's home". ABC News. Australia. 27 March 2013. 
  9. ^ McClymont, Kate (30 March 2013). "The secret life of Richard Torbay". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Nicholls, Sean (20 March 2013). "Torbay resigns from state parliament". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Nicholls, Sean (2013-03-20). "Torbay referred to ICAC". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  12. ^ "Northern Tablelands voters look set to elect local mayor as next state MP". Independent Media Centre Australia. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Richard Torbay, James Harris honoured by UNE". UNE News & Events. University of New England. 6 October 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  14. ^ Lane, Bernard (10 November 2008). "Richard Torbay named new UNE chancellor". The Australian. 
Civic offices
Preceded by
Joe Harrold
Mayor of Armidale
Merged into Armidale
Dumaresq Council
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Ray Chappell
Member for Northern Tablelands
Succeeded by
Adam Marshall
Preceded by
John Aquilina
Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Succeeded by
Shelley Hancock
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Cassidy
Chancellor of the University of New England
Succeeded by
John Watkins