ACT News


Rules are rules: no vote for Libs' biggest fund-raiser

Canberra's biggest Liberal Party fund-raiser has been denied a vote in Saturday's federal preselection.

Local construction magnate Bob Winnel will not get a vote when the party selects its Senate and House of Representatives candidates on Saturday morning, despite helping to raise more than $1 million for the Liberal cause.

Also, party officials have been presented with a petition signed by 85 members seeking to have the preselection overturned and the process restarted.

Mr Winnel declined to discuss the preselection but Fairfax Media understands he made two unsuccessful attempts to register as a preselector in the days before the Liberals' former leader in the ACT, Zed Seselja, declared his challenge to Senate incumbent Gary Humphries.

Mr Winnel has been a member of the Liberals in Canberra since the 1960s and was a founder and director of the party's 250 fund-raising group. He has served long stints in the 1990s on its ruling management committee, and as recently as November he held a fund-raising dinner with federal Liberal leader Tony Abbott at his Yarralumla home.

But the Village Building Company managing director will be unable to participate in Saturday morning's preselection vote at the Eastlake Football Club because he has not been registered as attending a party meeting in the past six months.


It is understood Mr Winnel tried to attend the hastily convened Young Liberals on January 30, which was open to any member to attend, but arrived too late to be listed on the attendance sheet. He then tried to get into the party's women's council meeting the next day but could not access the building at 221 London Circuit, Civic, where it was held.

The preselection has been marred by infighting with some long-term members angered they will not be able to vote on Saturday after attending meetings later found to be not properly constituted.

Confusion still reigns about the number of members eligible to vote. Latest estimates put it at between 210 and 217 from a party membership of about 640.

Party president Tio Faulkner and the management committee have refused to reconsider any requests from would-be preselectors to reopen the rolls. But a group of 100 members, led by former president Gary Kent, petitioned Mr Faulkner on Thursday to hold a meeting of the party's divisional council, effectively an extraordinary general meeting, next month at which they will try to move the preselection be overturned. They say the party is now constitutionally bound to hold the general meeting no later than mid-March.

As well as the bitterly contested battle for the No. 1 Senate spot, the party will also choose its candidates on Saturday for the lower house electorates of Canberra and Fraser.

In Canberra, defeated Assembly candidate Tom Sefton, former West Australian local councillor Anne Ryan and accounting specialist Greg Dennis will compete for the right to take on Labor incumbent Gai Brodtmann in September's election.

In the northern seat of Fraser, two other unsuccessful Liberal candidates in the 2012 poll, Elizabeth Lee and Jacob Vadakkedathu, will contest the preselection for the seat held by Labor's Andrew Leigh.


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