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Open warfare in Canberra Liberals preselection challenge

Outgoing ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja, right, is challenging Gary Humphries for the chance to represent the ACT and the Liberals in the Senate, prompting division in the local party.

Outgoing ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja, right, is challenging Gary Humphries for the chance to represent the ACT and the Liberals in the Senate, prompting division in the local party. Photo: Colleen Petch

The ACT Liberal Party is descending into open warfare with members threatening to take action to overturn the preselection process for the party's number one Senate spot.

The party's management committee voted on Wednesday night to proceed with a preselection timetable, despite claims many party members had missed out on qualifying to vote.

Fairfax has been told some party members will now petition for a mass meeting of members, which could overturn the management committee's decision.

Senior Canberra Liberals party member Gary Kent has been threatened with expulsion for speaking out about for the preselection process.

Senior Canberra Liberals party member Gary Kent has been threatened with expulsion for speaking out about for the preselection process. Photo: Elesa Lee

On ABC Radio this morning, Senator Gary Humphries, who is being challenged for his job by ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja, said he was not happy with the management committee's decision.

“I'm not okay with it," Senator Humphries said.

Former Canberra Liberals president and Howard government staffer Gary Kent told Fairfax he had been threatened with expulsion from the party for speaking out about the process being undertaken for the February 23 preselection.

“There have been threats to expel me,’’ he said.

Mr Kent said he had written to party president - and former Seselja staffer - Tio Faulkner to express his concerns.

“If a decision is simply to maintain the status quo then a number of people in the division - branch members - will seek to take it further, using the constitutional mechanisms of the constitution,’’ he said.

Some party members are believed to be considering using a petition to trigger a meeting of the Canberra Liberals’ full Divisional Council, which consists of all members, and would have the power to overturn decisions of the management committee.

A meeting of the full Divisional Council could not be held before the preselection ballot but might be able to overturn the result.

Members could also attempt to remove Mr Faulkner from his position at a Divisional Council meeting.

Senator Humphries said he was concerned that the management committee had rejected a proposal to allow existing financial members to qualify for preselection by attending a party meeting.

He said Mr Seselja’s decision to announce he was challenging for the Senate spot on the day nominations closed meant that many party members had been unaware there would be a preselection ballot until it was too late to qualify to vote.

“There have been strong rumours circulating that some people had been asked to attend meetings of the party branches in order to qualify to vote. And it appears that some people had an indication that there would be a challenge before the general membership [were told],’’ he said.

Senator Humphries said Mr Seselja had not publicly announced he was challenging until after nominations had closed on Monday.

"The nominations closed at midday, Zed had a press conference at half past 12," he said.  

“So party members on the whole were unaware that there was going to be a contested preselection. As a result there’s only approximately a third of the party’s membership that’s actually signed up to be preselectors in this preselection. Several hundred party members, many of them very good long-serving loyal party members, are not eligible to take part in this preselection.’’

59 comments so far

  • Zed, this is the exact same self-serving behaviour I would expect from the Labour party !!

    You committed to serving as a locally elected ACT member only 3 1/2 short months ago, now you've turned on one of your own party, and not just another party member, but your one time mentor and a well respected local Federal representative !!

    I'm extremely disappointed, I expected better from you.

    Mr Seselja, you dear sir have lost my vote.

    Commenter
    The Liberal
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 07, 2013, 9:45AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      No to Zed!
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 11:12AM
    • +2

      Commenter
      Roofus11
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 12:33PM
    • Go Zed! I see all the labor voters pretending to be liberals (cant blame them- I would hide that fact as well) commenting! I for one think you would do much more for canberra in a federal role. At least that way, you dont have to rely on mr towell and his comrades pushing the agenda of katy and hiding the fact that they are too weak to even ask what happened at the hospital! I note katy came out and showed the true figures of the hospital data and Mr Towell was nowhere to be seen, asking the obvious questions about why the figures are going backwards. Weak CT, Weak.

      Commenter
      madzac05
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 1:02PM
    • +3

      Commenter
      alanngli
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 1:05PM
    • Haha yeah because he always had your vote, right, "The Liberal", if that is your real name! And how is it self-serving of Zed to give it a shot, but not of Gary to stay in the job for so long... Canberrans go on about being progressive, and then a young but experienced guy puts his hand up, and you call it self-serving? Reality check people

      Commenter
      Linnie
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 1:13PM
    • +3 !!!

      Commenter
      Robert
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 1:17PM
    • Yeah I'm sure he had your vote "The Liberal"! Also, it's spelt Labor.

      Commenter
      liberal voter
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 1:50PM
    • Linnie, Zed's self-serving, you betcha. What about the 3 years 8.5 months remaining of his parliamentary term? He's a bloke have a bob each way: "yeah, I'll have a crack at the Chief Minister job, but if it doesn't fall my way, I'll just bail and head for the Senate..." Zed deserves to have this blow up in his face. I voted for Zed last year, which is the first time I've gone Liberal in 21 years voting... get stuffed Zed, and get stuffed LNP. I'll stick with the devils I know.

      Commenter
      Carlton Draft
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 8:28PM
  • How on earth did Tio weasel his way to the Liberal president job? Imagine what a backstabber Zed will be if he makes it to the senate, it looks like we have another Gillard ready to pounce on anyone who turns their back.

    I say expel Tio Faulkner and Zed from the Liberal Party, Zed can become an independent. Zed only used the ACT elections as a stepping stone in order to attempt to get a seat on the senate. That's good enough reason to expel Zed.

    I won't be voting for the Liberals if Zed takes over from Mr Humphries!

    Commenter
    Iranian Space Monkey
    Date and time
    February 07, 2013, 10:06AM

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