The West Australian Liberal party has become a political "wasteland" in part because of the corrosive influence of factions, a damning review has found.
But the report into the party's blowout election defeat and preceding years in opposition has stopped short of singling out the conservative powerbrokers who privately boasted of branch-stacking and controlling preselections.
Leaked messages from a group chat including former federal minister Mathias Cormann and state MPs Peter Collier and Nick Goiran have reinforced long-held concerns about their influence.
Along with other state and federal Liberals - including outgoing president Fay Duda - the trio openly discuss branch-stacking while denigrating factional rivals.
Mr Collier describes one female party member as a "prize bitch" and another as a "toxic cow".
The messages were provided to the review led by former state president Danielle Blain and former vice-president and criminal lawyer Mark Trowell QC.
But while describing the messages as "very damning" if authentic, the review stops short of publishing them, citing privacy issues.
Mr Collier and Mr Goiran are not named in the report despite many Liberals having publicly criticised their influence over the years.
However the review warns factions "will fight to defeat any reforms that threaten their power".
"Perhaps the factions should reflect on what the exercise of their power over the last decade or so has had on the fortunes of the party," the report said.
"Decent people have abandoned the party leaving what is effectively a political wasteland devoid of Liberal principles and values."
The review identifies concerns about so-called branch bombing - the practice of factions recruiting members, most of whom live outside the electorate, "with the sole objective to disqualify the branch from voting at pre-selections".
"It is a corrupt practice intended to deny local branches their democratic right to choose their own candidates ... the number of people selecting a candidate can (sometimes) be very small and completely unrepresentative of party membership," it said.
The report recommends MPs being preselected through plebiscites of party members in each electorate but says state council should retain the final say.
It also backs targets for greater female representation but stops short of advocating quotas.
The report's release on Saturday comes five months after the Liberals slumped to the worst defeat in WA's history.
Reduced to just two lower house seats - with party leader Zak Kirkup among the casualties - the Liberals lost their opposition status to the Nationals and handed Labor unprecedented control of both houses of parliament.
The party's campaign descended into farce when Mr Kirkup, a first-term MP, effectively conceded defeat two weeks out from polling day.
Mr Kirkup's elevation as party leader 15 weeks before the state election is slammed in the report as a "desperate and ill-advised move".
A more experienced leader wouldn't have prevented a loss but may have saved more seats, it concludes.
Several candidates, some linked to conservative churches, caused headaches for the Liberals during the campaign.
One linked 5G technology to the COVID-19 pandemic, while another promoted an unproven anti-parasite drug as a potential cure.
A shambolic policy costing presentation and a clean energy plan that was savaged by state and federal MPs also did the Liberals no favours.
The report also warns the party's financial viability is at risk because of an exodus of corporate funding.
Ms Duda labelled the review "embarrassing and humiliating".
"Unless we face up to this reality, we cannot move forward," she said.
"Members from all parts of the party need to accept responsibility, stop talking about the past and start working together for the future."
Australian Associated Press
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