The anti-communist, pro-Catholic Democratic Labour Party - which has a potential balance-of-power senator in Federal Parliament - is in disarray, with a party powerbroker seeking an urgent injunction in the Victorian Supreme Court to try to stop a planned state conference being held on Saturday.
The DLP Victorian state secretary John Mulholland appeared before Justice Tim Ginnane on Thursday, demanding the conference at Scoresby not go ahead.
Mr Mulholland - who has been involved in a six-year legal battle to keep his job with the DLP - believes the conference will be used by the DLP’s Paul Funnell to dump him as state secretary.
Mr Funnell, a Wagga city councillor in NSW who unsuccessfully stood for the seat of Riverina at last year’s federal election, claims to be the DLP’s federal president but Mr Mulholland denies this.
Mr Mulholland told the Supreme Court that the DLP had in effect two federal executives - one in Victoria and one in NSW.
He claimed the party’s real federal executive was the one based in Victoria and not the one run by Mr Funnell in NSW.
Mr Mulholland said if the planned DLP Victoria state conference organised by Mr Funnell went ahead on Saturday he expected to be dumped from his position by supporters of Mr Funnell.
He said if this happened there would be two people claiming to be the DLP Victoria state secretary, which would ‘‘create a fair amount of confusion’’.
The newly elected DLP Victoria state secretary would then have to be endorsed by the Australian Electoral Commission, which would lead to a fresh court battle, Mr Mulholland warned.
Justice Ginnane said one of his main concerns was that Mr Funnell, an irrigation farmer, was not in court to argue his case on Thursday.
Mr Mulholland claimed he had emailed all his court documentation to Mr Funnell, including the writ, summons and statement of claim, in the early hours of Wednesday morning but got no response.
Justice Ginnane said the emails did not constitute Mr Funnell having been personally served with the documentation.
The judge adjourned the proceedings to Friday to give Mr Funnell time to attend.
The DLP’s John Madigan is one of eight independent or micro-party senators with whom the Abbott government will have to negotiate to get bills through the senate.
He was elected to the Senate in 2010 after winning 2.33 per cent of the primary vote in Victoria, and began a six-year term in July 2011.
Mr Madigan won the final Senate spot in Victoria following a three-way contest involving Family First Senator Steve Fielding and Liberal Senator Julian McGauran.
Mr Madigan, a blacksmith based in Ballarat who joined the DLP in 2006, is the party’s Victorian state president and federal vice-president.
The DLP has not won a seat in the House of Representatives at a federal election.