PM to Macca: 'We're still mates, but no to dinner'
UPDATE: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he and Ian Macfarlane are still "mates" but he's too busy to come up the Range for dinner.
Mr Turnbull this morning cancelled Sunday night's Toowoomba visit; only a day after Mr Macfarlane defected from the Liberal to the National Party.
Mr Macfarlane said the phone call from the PM telling him he would not be at the sod turning dinner was a symbol of the relationship between them.
"He personally called me to say 'mate, listen I'm really sorry I can't do the dinner'," Mr Macfarlane said.
"I'm still a mate of Malcolm Turnbull's."
The dinner was planned to officially mark the start of construction on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.
A sod-turning event will now be held immediately after Monday morning's community breakfast at the Empire Theatre, before Mr Turnbull leaves again.
Why did Malcolm Turnbull really pull out of the dinner in Toowoomba?
This poll ended on 14 December 2015.
Annoyed at Ian Macfarlane
Bit of both
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Mr Macfarlane lost his position as Science and Industry Minister in September's cabinet reshuffle to Christopher Pyne.
He said his plans to move to the Nationals, announced this week, began "within a week of the re-shuffle".
"It was a plan that if it didn't work, I would no longer remain in politics."
"It was this way or I would retire; they were the only two options I'd consider."
Mr Macfarlane said this week's announcement was not meant to be revealed until later in the year.
"Unfortunately because a number of people knew, someone decided to make it public," he said.
"I had a position within the government I was happy with. When I was no longer able to contribute through being a minister, I noticed a distinct drop in my ability to convey issues as forcefully."
"That caused me to make this decision."
He said his move to the National Party would not change his stance on policies for regional Queensland.
"I'm happy to sit in either party room. The Nationals have offered me an opportunity the Liberals haven't, and my goal is to ensure there is strong representation," he said.
"To do that you have to be in the ministry and maybe in cabinet," he said.
"You deal with the situation you've got."Mr Turnbull's appearance at Monday's community breakfast will be the only chance for residents to meet the Prime Minister in Toowoomba.
Toowoomba Clubhouse executive director Luke Terry said he had received confirmation the community breakfast would still go ahead.
"We want the breakfast to broadly represent the community and this event shows how important social enterprise is to the economy," he said.
"He's flying in especially for it, so we've opened up more tickets."
Tickets to the Empire Theatre breakfast from 6.30am until 8.30am can be bought from the Empire Theatre.
Money raised from the $20 entry to the event will be put towards the ambitious Vanguard Laundry project.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Mr Macfarlane are also expected at the event.
Refunds to Sunday night's $190 a ticket sod turning dinner were issued to more than 200 people.
Voters in The Chronicle's online poll (68 per cent) agreed Malcolm Turnbull pulled out of the dinner because of Ian Macfarlane's defection.
Another 25 per cent agreed he was busy but also annoyed.
EARLIER: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pulled out of a dinner in Toowoomba just 24 hours after Member for Groom Ian Macfarlane defected to the Nationals.
The event was to officially mark the start of construction on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.
Organiser Jim Curtis said he had been notified Mr Turnbull's schedule would not permit him to attend the dinner, and was working on notifying the more than 200 people who had purchased tickets.
Despite Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss being available - another high-profile guest slated for the dinner - the event has been cancelled.
"He (Mr Turnbull) is still coming up on Monday for the sod-turning but won't be here on Sunday so we are cancelling the function," Mr Curtis said.
He said ticket-holders were being advised individually, and the $190 dinner ticket would be refunded in full.
Mr Curtis said he was hopeful Mr Turnbull would attend future events in Toowoomba if his schedule permitted.
For more information contact Jim Curtis on 0427 001 775 or email email@example.com.