by SEAN BURKE – NSW Coalition MP Ben Franklin has been warned he’d be referred to the Corruption Commissioner if he strikes a deal with Premier Chris Minns to hand Labor the balance of power in the Upper House.
The Young Liberal turned National MP, who has strong ties with members of the Liberal Party’s Left faction – including Manly MP James Griffin and MLC Natalie Ward – has been nominated by Mr Minns as President of NSW’s Legislative Council.
Mr Franklin has been invited as a “special guest” by Mr Griffin and spoken at one of his fund-raising events.
If Mr Franklin accepts Mr Minns’ nomination, Labor would gain effective control of the deadlocked chamber with backing from the Greens, Animal Justice and Cannabis Parties.
The Coalition MP is known to be a close friend of the NSW Labor Premier and is believed to be God Father to at least one of Mr Minns’ children.
In return for “sacrificing” a National Party vote on the floor, Mr Franklin would gain an annual pay rise of about $150,000, receive a staff of three, access to a private dining room as well as limousine transport with a chauffeur.
Senior Nationals this week called the proposed arrangement an act of “treachery” against the Party, which had voted unanimously against supporting a candidate for president.
NSW National Party Chairman Andrew Fraser said Mr Franklin had been warned not to accept the position.
He suggested Mr Franklin’s conduct could be considered “partial” to the government.
“The Party has given him his career, so to kick sand in the face of the Party is not good,” Mr Fraser said.
“It’s a matter for the Party room, which has made its decision. But if Ben was to accept the position, I would refer it to ICAC.”
Nationals Leader Paul Toole this week said the Party room was limited in the actions it could take against a member, but insisted there would be ramifications for any member who defied a motion, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Particularly a motion like this, which could impact on the position of holding the government to account,” Mr Toole said.
An ICAC referral would be made on the basis that the nomination was partial to the government who would gain a voting advantage, while Mr Franklin would receive a financial benefit.PC