Dumped ACT senator Gary Humphries has been stripped of a Liberal Party award for distinguished service after criticising his former colleagues and Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson.
The popular former senator and former ACT chief minister was to have received the Margaret Reid Award for more than 25 years of service to the Liberal Party, but its powerful management committee stopped this last month.
The 13-member committee, which includes Mr Hanson and the Liberals' Senator Zed Seselja, withdrew the award after Mr Humphries used a Canberra Times opinion piece in March to label the ACT Liberals “foot soldiers” for Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Mr Humphries said the party had been overrun by a ''creeping conservatism'' and ignored community support for same-sex marriage reforms, and that Labor had become the “natural party of government” in the ACT.
The withdrawal of the award comes as the federal government seeks to position itself as a protector of free speech to sell its controversial proposals to change the Racial Discrimination Act.
ACT Liberal Party president Peter Collins said public discussion of the award's withdrawal was inappropriate.
"I am most irritated that internal party matters are being made public by people for their own little snide remarks," he said.
Mr Collins said rank-and-file members speaking publicly about the award were "dissidents" seeking to prove a point in the media.
Mr Humphries was ousted from his role as Liberal senator for the ACT last year after a right-wing push and a bitter preselection battle that resulted in Mr Seselja being installed.
He also declined to comment.
One party source said it was extraordinary to see recognition of “years of loyal service wiped out with one article in The Canberra Times”.
“It’s almost incumbent on former politicians once they are out of the fray to discuss where their party is at and provide advice for the future,” he said.
“Amanda Vanstone, Peter Reith – there’s a myriad of them who write op-eds. That doesn’t make them Liberal betrayers.”
News of the award being revoked comes days after Mr Hanson appeared to be taking some cues from the opinion piece, lashing out at federal government plans to move 600 federal public service jobs from Canberra to the NSW central coast.
He has also emphasised recent discussions with former chief minister Kate Carnell, whom Mr Humphries argued had effectively opposed public service job cuts by the Howard government in the 1990s.
A spokesman said Mr Hanson would not comment on the award on Wednesday.
Further party unrest has continued in recent weeks after a group of members seeking internal reform claimed their email list had been hacked.
A Facebook page purporting to represent the Menzies Group faction has been created, and members of the group received an email asking them to join the social networking site.
On May 23, the group’s committee said the email list had been hacked by the page’s creator and the matter had been referred to police.
“The Menzies Group is committed to playing an active role in strengthening our party for future success,” the email said.
“Attacking and attempting to humiliate individuals does not strengthen Liberalism in Canberra and certainly does not represent the values of our party.”