Zed ahead: Libs end Senate row

Zed ahead: Libs end Senate row

The Canberra Liberals have settled their internal Senate preselection feud decisively with the party voting on Wednesday night to allow the nomination of Zed Seselja to stand.

A motion to overturn Mr Seselja's victory over incumbent Senator Gary Humphries and hold the ballot again was voted down by 168 votes to 138 after three hours of "robust" debate at The Rex Hotel in Braddon.

Gary Humphries concedes defeat at the Canberra divisional council, Rex Hotel.

Gary Humphries concedes defeat at the Canberra divisional council, Rex Hotel.Credit:Melissa Adams

Despite an extra 108 voters participating on Wednesday night, the 30-vote margin was the same edge Mr Seselja had on his opponent at the initial preselection on February 23.

The party had been split on the question of voting rights with many members complaining publicly they had been unfairly denied the right to cast a ballot in the February 23 vote.


There was still rancour in the air as Wednesday's Divisional Council meeting broke up with visible anger among some members at the result and others walking out of the meeting, which was closed to the media, long before the vote was held.

"Kiss goodbye to democracy and fairness," one woman said as she left.

But speaking just after Wednesday night's meeting broke up, Mr Seselja said he had been endorsed again, and this time by a larger group of party members.

"The party has once again spoken very clearly, we have now had two opportunities to examine this issue and on both occasions I've been honoured to be endorsed by the party and to have that endorsement, I guess re-endorsed, tonight by a much bigger number," the Senate candidate said.

"I would say to members that this has been a difficult period, obviously, democracy is difficult and there are passionate views on both sides.

"I respect that there are many people in the party who haven't supported me at preselection but I know that the vast bulk of those will support the Liberal Party, will get behind the Liberal Party."

Mr Seselja called on the party to cease the public brawling that had dogged it for nearly two months.

"This has been comprehensively canvassed both internally and externally, I think it's unfortunate that it has been canvassed externally as much as it has been," he said.

"I would say to those that have engaged in that kind of behaviour that certainly the party has very very clearly spoken tonight.

"Without a doubt, these things aren't easy and I'm not going to underestimate that this has been a difficult period for the Liberal Party.

"But we've been through difficult times before and we've unified and we've gotten on with the job."

The former local party leader described the debate inside the conference room as robust.

"It was difficult at times, I wouldn't have expected anything different and if you were to go to any political party where there is a controversial issue being discussed, you will get robust debate," he said.

A clearly dejected Senator Humphries declined to speak to the waiting media after the vote, which looks certain to have ended his 10-year Senate career, and said he would make a statement on Thursday morning.

Former Party President Gary Kent, who led the constitutional challenge to Mr Seselja's preselection said he would accept the outcome of the vote. "This is a democratic party and I stand by the result of the divisional council," Mr Kent said.

"I fought hard to get a Divisional Council, much harder than I should have had to fight, but I will always accept the outcome of a meeting of the Liberal Party of the ACT."

The former party official said his fight was now over.


"That's it," Mr Kent said.

"Put to bed."

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

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