Doubt cast over members' preselection votes
Canberra Liberals leader Zed Seselja. Photo: Karleen Minney
The internal revolt in the Canberra Liberal Party over the Senate preselection vote has spread, with a key branch raising more questions about the validity of the process.
With the row focused on members' eligibility to vote and their attendance of "qualifying meetings", the party's northern electorate branch secretary says many of his branch's Liberals may not be eligible to cast ballots in the preselection.
Incumbent Senator Gary Humphries has cried foul over the management of the preselection, saying it was timed to minimise the amount of support he could mobilise against the challenge of local party leader Zed Seselja.
Now northern electorate branch secretary Martin Gordon has written to the ACT division's general secretary and president, saying that many of his branch's meetings since July 2012 failed to achieve a quorum. The party's constitution states that a member cannot vote in a preselection unless they have attended a meeting within six months of the poll but the meetings must be quorate and seven days' notice must be given to members.
The failure could have the meetings ruled invalid as "qualifying meetings" and northern electorate branch members who attended meetings with fewer than 20 people taken off the pre-selection rolls.
Concerns have also been raised about the final two party meetings held before the rolls closed, with party sources claiming seven days notice was not given to members as
required by the party's constitution and the meetings should be declared invalid. There are also claims that one of the two meetings, a women's council meeting held on January 31, ran for just 17 minutes, had no agenda and some members were asked to attend and simply "sign the book and walk out".
The Canberra Liberals management committee ruled at a meeting on Wednesday night that the preselection process complied with the party's constitution.
But in a letter to the ACT division on Wednesday, Mr Gordon questioned the process and demanded the president and general secretary "clarify the issue of quorate meetings" and which of his branch members were eligible preselectors.
Attendance lists from four branch meetings held between July and November 2012 show just one meeting achieved a quorum.
Mr Gordon said he was worried that his branch members might be locked out of the process, even though many of them had been active in the Liberals' 2012 territory election.
Former branch president Gary Kent has also written to the management committee questioning the validity of the Young Liberals and women's council meetings held at the end of January, saying most members of those branches had only received four to five days notice of those meetings.
Mr Kent said: "I believe that those meetings were not valid."