Liberals fight to keep lid on feud
ACT Legislative Assembly Speaker, Vicki Dunne. Photo: Graham Tidy
The Canberra Liberal preselection row has descended ''into the gutter'' according to a senior MLA as the party steps up its attempts to stop details of the brawl becoming public.
Former local leader Zed Seselja and Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne have written to party members pleading with them not to talk to media about the feud that has consumed the ACT division since Mr Seselja announced his plans to challenge incumbent senator Gary Humphries.
Mrs Dunne has also written to a long-term party member who has quit the party in protest, asking the man not to go public with his anger.
In an email to the Canberra membership Mr Seselja has attacked Senator Humphries for airing complaints and for making correspondence about a proposed debate between them public.
''The decision by Gary Humphries to put this correspondence into the public domain appears designed for only one purpose, to continue to see the Liberal Party experience negative publicity, particularly in The Canberra Times,'' Mr Seselja wrote.
''I've stated on numerous occasions during this process that it only serves the interests of the Labor Party and the Greens for constant criticisms of the party to be put into the public domain. I maintain that this is the case. Like most party members, I am tired of seeing the Liberal Party experience negative publicity in The Canberra Times in particular.''
In an email to the ACT division membership, Mrs Dunne said the dispute over the preselection had left her ''deeply conflicted'' because of the long-standing relationships she had with both candidates.
''But I have watched the preselection spiral into the gutter over the past couple of weeks, and I cannot hold off commenting any further,'' she wrote. ''Campaigns for preselection should have one audience - Liberal Party members.
''Megaphone communication through the front page of The Canberra Times is not good for the party.
''It only serves the ends of our enemies in the ALP.''
The MLA called for ''an end to this public bickering'' and said members with concerns could discuss them with her privately.
In a separate email to party member Ramon Montero, Mrs Dunne pleaded with the Belconnen businessman not to speak to the media about his complaints about being denied the right to vote.
Mr Montero quit the party after being told he was ineligible to vote in the preselection because meetings he attended at his Northern Electorate branch did not achieve a quorum.
Mrs Dunne wrote to Mr Montero saying the level of public comment about the process had been ''damaging'' and ''distressing''.
''Ramon, the matters you raise are very important to the Canberra Liberals but they are matters for the party not the public,'' she wrote. ''It is important that you raise these matters with the party.''
Mr Montero said this was ''insulting''. ''Zed Seselja, when I spoke to him, it was exactly the same - he said don't go to the media. Alistair Coe also told me not to go to the media, Steve Doszpot told me not to go to the media.
''It's completely wrong. They're all just looking after Zed Seselja. When you tell people not to go to the media, you are hiding something.''