Tio Faulkner, president of the Canberra Liberals. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Canberra Liberals have mounted a public defence of the process being used to preselect the party’s Senate candidate for the federal election.
The party has been under fire internally with allegations that the process has been manipulated to the advantage of the party leader Zed Seselja.
But divisional president Tio Faulkner said on Thursday the process was compliant with the party’s constitution and warned Liberals not to discuss the ructions with the media.
The row centres on the rule requiring preselectors to have attended a party meeting within six months of the preselection vote.
Senator Gary Humphries said on Thursday he believed the preselection process had been managed and timed to minimise the amount of support he could muster.
Other party members, led by former branch president Gary Kent, are considering a constitutional challenge in an effort to have the qualifying period reopened.
But Mr Faulkner, a former staff member to Mr Seselja who is now contracted to work in the office of the Liberal Assembly Speaker Vicki Dunne, directly contradicted statements made by Senator Humphries.
“At the outset, I would like to confirm that the process in place fully complies with the [party’s] constitution, and is the same process used in the 2010, 2007, 2004, 2002, and earlier, preselections,” Mr Faulkner said.
“Senator Humphries sits on management committee as the federal representative of the party.
“The management committee unanimously agreed to the timetable in December and Senator Humphries was consulted on 3December about this.
“He raised no objection at that time, in the interim, or at any time until a challenger was announced.
“Senator Humphries said on ABC radio that the first he had known of the preselection date was in January.
“This is incorrect.”
Mr Faulkner confirmed the party’s management committee had rejected requests to extend the qualifying period.
“The management committee will not bend the rules by extending the constitutionally stipulated six-month period to attend a branch meeting,” Mr Faulkner said.
“Indeed if this was done this would result in some members currently eligible becoming ineligible.”
Senator Humphries’ office did not respond on Thursday to Mr Faulkner’s declaration.
Mr Kent said on Thursday that he had been threatened with expulsion from the party for speaking with the media and Mr Faulkner wrote an email to the division’s members on Thursday saying that “members should be aware that internal party matters should not be canvassed in the media”.
“I encourage members to allow the party process to continue freely and within party forums.”