Thursday, July 3, 2008

Iguanas scandal ends Belinda Neal's career

BELINDA Neal's political career is over, with the Labor Party refusing to preselect her for the 2010 federal election.

Chiefs at Labor's Sussex St headquarters have resolved to ensure Ms Neal is blocked from candidacy on the Central Coast seat of Robertson in the wake of the Iguanas-gate scandal.

And the fate of her husband - suspended education minister John Della Bosca - has torn the Iemma Government apart following the power couple's belated interrogation by police yesterday.

No less than 27 days after the incident at Iguanas Waterfront nightclub, the federal MP and her husband finally attended Gosford police station yesterday.

But their ordeal may only be beginning - on both the legal and political fronts.

The Daily Telegraph understands that, regardless of the outcome of the investigation into claims she altered statutory declarations about the incident, her career as a politician is over.

"She wasn't meant to get elected in the first place and she'll never be preselected again," a well-placed figure said of Ms Neal's Central Coast seat of Robertson.

Ms Neal's spokesman said her 2 1/2-hour interview was extensive.

He said she was "pleased another stage of the process had been finalised" and she understood the matter would be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions shortly.

However, The Daily Telegraph understands that a controversial public statement by police, which noted their refusal to be interviewed, was a deliberate ploy to shame them into being questioned.

Despite that statement saying that the investigation was winding up, a police source told The Daily Telegraph: "It's far from over. Inquiries are still continuing."

A police media spokeswoman confirmed that investigators would not be handing their brief of evidence to the NSW and Commonwealth DPPs this week as expected but at a later date.

Earlier in the day, Mr Della Bosca had gone through a marathon four-hour interview with police.

His handling of the issue - and his treatment at the hands of Premier Morris Iemma - is continuing to tear the State Government apart.

Mr Iemma has refused to face a meeting of the ALP's all-powerful Administrative Committee today to discuss the Government's woes.

Despite being invited more than a month ago, Mr Iemma claimed he had commitments in regional NSW.

The party has delivered an ultimatum to the Premier that he must face up to his problems with the Labor machine.

"It's an unsustainable situation, the relationship between the party and the Premier as it currently stands," a senior figure said.

"Something's got to give."

ALP headquarters and the unions have largely lined up to support Mr Della Bosca, who had tried to broker a peace deal between Sussex Street and the Government over the $25 billion power sell-off.

The Administration Committee is expected to consider this and the full range of Labor's problems in NSW, including the Iguanas scandal and possibly the membership of Ms Neal.

The Iguanas affair - in which Ms Neal allegedly threatened the jobs and liquor licence of staff at the Gosford nightspot - has threatened to destroy the Government


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