Liberals in turmoil over voter eligibility
Gary Humphries and Zed Seselja. Photo: Colleen Petch
There is still confusion about voter numbers in the Canberra Liberals' Senate preselection, just two days before ballots are due be cast.
More would-be preselectors have been ruled out as meetings of the party's Weston Creek branch were officially declared null and void on Tuesday evening for the purpose of qualifying pre-selectors.
But party officials insisted on Wednesday that there had been no changes to the number of preselectors since the rolls closed two weeks ago.
The preselection has descended into an internal party brawl, with accusations the process has been managed to exclude members likely to vote for incumbent Gary Humphries against challenger Zed Seselja.
Liberal members can vote only if they have attended at least one properly constituted meeting during the six months before the poll but irregularities have emerged or been alleged in meetings of five of the party's eight local groupings.
Party members who attended at least one meeting of the southern electorate branch last year are being told they cannot vote because it did not comply with the party's constitution.
There are calls from some members of the ACT division, who say they are being unfairly locked out of the process, for the preselection to be delayed or started from scratch because of the chaos.
Eligible party members are due to select the candidates for the lower house seats of Fraser, Canberra and the Senate on Saturday and party's management again dismissed the criticism on Wednesday, saying the number of preselectors was identified two weeks ago and had not changed since.
But Fairfax Media understands the party's returning officer, Martin Dunn, was still informing members of the southern electorate branch as late as Wednesday that a September 20 meeting had been declared invalid and would not give members voting status.
And members who attended any of the four meetings of the Weston Creek branch in the past six months will not have voting rights from those meetings because the branch failed to supply attendance lists to the division before the preselection rolls closed.
Doubt also hangs over qualifying meetings of the women's council and Young Liberals' branches.
While the Mr Dunn has told the party the meetings complied with the constitution, some members claim they did not receive notification of the final qualifying meetings at least seven days in advance, in accordance with party rules.
Former party president Gary Kent, who is trying to mobilise an internal revolt against the party's management, said it was outrageous that there was still confusion just days before the poll.
''Three days before the preselection, it is still unclear who is eligible to vote on Saturday,'' Mr Kent said.
''I think it is outrageous that five days before the preselection, the final roll of voters remains to be determined and some voters will turn up on Saturday expecting to be able to vote and they won't be able to.''
But a party spokesman was dismissive of the unrest.
''The precise number of eligible preselectors was identified over two weeks ago after independent scrutiny by the returning officer and has not been changed since,'' the spokesman said.