Nats claims ‘hypocrisy’

The wife of Morwell MP Russell Northe has accused the Nationals of hypocrisy and engaging in “gutter politics” following reports of her husband’s debt to party leader Peter Walsh.

A report published by the Herald Sun on Monday claimed Mr Northe approached high-ranking party members for loans in early 2015 following financial issues with a locally-based franchise.

The report said Mr Walsh loaned the Morwell MP $30,000, which the Nationals leader confirmed at a press conference in Melbourne on Monday morning.

At the press conference, Mr Walsh would not confirm whether Mr Northe owed money to other members of the Nationals’ party room, saying it was an “issue for Russell to address”.

Mr Walsh confirmed he had recently met Mr Northe during the previous sitting week of Parliament, February 6 to 8.

“Russell, with one of his friends from Gippsland, came to see me last sitting week, as I understand he did a number of people he owes money, and he made a small repayment,” he said.

In a statement released to media on Monday afternoon, Jenny Northe acknowledged her husband had made mistakes he was “genuinely and sincerely remorseful for and to which he is desperately working to make amends”.

“I’m disgusted at the gutter politics and the hypocrisy of the Nationals and the emotional hurt inflicted upon me, my children and my family,” she said.

“Apparently, it’s not OK to question Barnaby’s private life in the media but it is OK to question ours.

“Moreover, for our family to be dragged through the mud again for political gain is shameful.”

First elected in 2006, Mr Northe was a member of the Nationals until August last year when he stepped down following a two-month leave of absence to deal with personal issues.

On his return, Mr Northe revealed he was dealing with mental health issues brought on by “business investments that didn’t go to plan”, a family member’s drug issues and the death of a close friend.

He also confirmed that “on occasion in that period, I drank too much and I gambled too much”.

In his statement on Monday, Mr Northe said the Herald Sun report was “extremely upsetting for myself and my family”.

“As has been well articulated in the past I have made some very poor decisions in my personal and business life and I have tried to take responsibility and ownership of those,” he said.

“Whilst some events may have occurred, outside of my responsibility, many of my wounds are self-inflicted and I have owned up to that.”

In his statement, Mr Northe also addressed reports the Nationals had reported possible financial “irregularities” in its Morwell branch’s bank account to police, saying “claims of missing money as reported in some media outlets today is simply not correct and I will be seeking legal counsel on this point”.

At Monday’s press conference, Mr Walsh told reporters police would be asked to investigate possible unauthorised transitions and allegations of forgery in relation to the account.

The alleged forgery related to the withdrawal of $8000 in May last year which was later deposited back into the account.

The party’s board management decided to refer the matter to police on Friday following an audit of the account.

There is no suggestion by The Express that Mr Northe is involved in this matter.

The Express contacted Mr Northe for further comment on his prepared statement, however he said he had nothing more to add to his statement and that he “is focusing on representing the Morwell electorate as I was elected to do”.