You’d think a Liberal party room meeting at the start of a crucial parliamentary sitting week in an election year might focus on the big questions confronting the government.
Things like: how to recapture the political high ground; how to wedge Labor; whether opinion polls matter eight months out from an election; how best to allocate scarce resources.
The fact the Liberal Party spent the best part of an hour on Tuesday morning talking about itself is a very worrying sign indeed for Denis Napthine.
The party is starting to bicker. The danger is this develops into open hostility which can quickly become a downward spiral. Just ask the federal Labor Party.
There are tensions along several fault lines. Old factional wounds have been reopened between progressive and conservative elements of the party. There are tensions as key players jockey for place as Napthine’s heir apparent and there are tensions between state and federal Liberals.
If Victorian Liberal president Tony Snell was expecting an easy run when he addressed the party room on Tuesday morning, he was sorely mistaken. Snell was asked by Napthine to simply address the party on the process for upper house pre-selections.
What he got was a barrage of angry questions, highlighting the extent of the tensions dogging the party. Former Premier Ted Baillieu arced up, asking whether federal MPs will be told to ''stay out'' of future preselection brawls.
Bernie Finn chipped in over the question of abortion, suggesting he had been wrongly accused of undermining Wooldridge in her battle for the seat Kew by highlighting her progressive credentials on the question of whether to reexamine Victoria’s abortion laws.
Finn went so far as to complain that MPs with nothing better to do ''should retire''.
The consensus was his comments were directed at Baillieu.
All of this on a day when Treasurer Michael O’Brien was forced to withdraw legislation designed to collect an extra $287 million poker machine tax revenue because he was unsure as to whether Frankston independent Geoff Shaw would vote for it.
Once again, it was a less than ideal way to start a parliamentary sitting week. There is still a long way to go until the election. Chances are the polls will look very different in November, but right now, this is a government in trouble.