Messenger shoots media, Springborg

Former Liberal National Party (LNP) MP Rob Messenger yesterday called for the resignation of LNP deputy leader Lawrence Springborg and defended himself against claims he misused taxpayer funds.

Mr Messenger said Mr Springborg played a prominent role in the publication of a story in the Courier-Mail last week which suggested he used his parliamentary travel allowance to pursue a personal relationship.

“The member for Southern Downs (Mr Springborg) and his staff have overstepped the boundaries of decency and have overstayed their welcome in this place,” he said.

The article, by Steven Wardill, raised questions about Mr Messenger’s frequent trips to North Queensland, which occurred while he was beginning a relationship with Townsville tourism co-ordinator Fern Duffie, now Mr Messenger’s wife.

Mr Messenger yesterday called the article “incomplete, unbalanced, malicious and defamatory”.

He said nine of his 15 trips to the area occurred before he began to see Ms Duffie on a personal level, and all were undertaken in his official capacity as a shadow minister.

“I was loyally and diligently carrying out National Party and then LNP official policy business,” he said.

Mr Messenger said he had taken five other personal trips to Townsville after he met Ms Duffie, but paid for all of them out of his own pocket.

“I paid from my own finances for every personal trip I made to Townsville, including accommodation, and every journey was certified and checked by Parliamentary Travel,” he said.

While his wife watched from the public gallery, Mr Messenger said it sank to a “new political low” for members of the LNP to use his travel on behalf of the party against him.

“I have watched my wife cry daily because of the lack of morals,
human decency and complete disregard for the truth demonstrated by some members of the LNP,” he said.

“I hope the people of Townsville and North Queensland remember how the LNP leadership used my travel and work in their communities and the fact that I fell in love with and married a Townsville girl as part of a sleazy political attack.”

Mr Messenger is one of two state LNP members who have quit the party recently over disagreements with its leadership team.

LNP president Bruce McIver said last week the people who had left had been under review, counselled or investigated in one manner or other.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday called on Opposition leader John-Paul Langbroek to reveal what he knew about investigations into his party members.

“What did the member for Surfers Paradise know about these reviews and these secret investigations and when did he know about them? How many other members of the LNP are under investigation?” she said.

Mr Langbroek later said two MPs from his team had been under investigation for claims, allowances and performance, but no members were currently under investigation.

He said investigations were carried out by the LNP secretariat and referred legitimate complaints to the proper authority.

“We on this side do not form our own court and come into this House and exonerate our own members, as members opposite have done,” he said.

Mr Messenger said later in the day he reserved the right to take legal action against the Courier-Mail, but that the electorate would judge Mr Springborg for his role in the affair.

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