Monday, 28 March 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: is the Liberal Party ripping itself apart in lead-up to polling day?

These days the Liberal Party of Australia is making Labor look like amateurs when it comes to internal party division and dissent.

ABC News, 25 February 2016:

A retired state Liberal MP, Charlie Lynn, who served for almost 20 years and was suspended from the party for speaking out on 7.30, has delivered a stinging rebuke to the state branch of the party, accusing it of acting like the Kremlin.

Charlie Lynn was suspended along with former federal Parliamentary Secretary, Ross Cameron, and branch member, Juris Laucis, by the party's acting State Director, Simon McInnes, for criticising NSW Liberal party pre-selection processes.

The Daily Telegraph, 11 March 2016:

PENRITH councillor Marcus Cornish has been suspended from the Liberal Party for six months after an email he wrote for party members was leaked.
At close of business on Friday, February 19, the conservative councillor — who has sided with the party for about 12 years — received the news by email, claiming he was “bringing the party into disrepute in an election year”.
Cr Cornish said: “All I am trying to do is keep democracy alive … if arguments aren’t heard for and against on things, then the people are not really heard.

The Australian, 20 March 2016:

The Liberal Party has erupted in a furious brawl over the role of ­lobbyists in selecting Senate ­candidates after a “farcical” vote on the weekend that defied Malcolm Turnbull, sought to undermine a federal minister and cost retired general Jim Molan a seat in parliament. In a test of money and power, party officials allowed lobbyists Michael Photios and Nick Campbell to step in at the last minute to help decide the NSW Liberal candidates for the Senate at the next election, sparking claims of “corruption” in the process.

The state executive will meet within days to rectify part of the outcome by confirming the Minister for International Development Concetta Fierravanti-Wells at the top of the ticket, but the party faces a wider challenge over the failure to notify candidates of the late switch to the preselection panel.

“The anger is so wide over this that the challenge could come from anywhere,” one Liberal Party member said yesterday, as those involved in the preselection said the result would have been ­completely different if the state executive had not intervened.

While Tony Abbott decreed two years ago that lobbyists could not hold positions as party officials — forcing Mr Photios off the state executive — the surprise move last Friday saw Mr Photios and Mr Campbell take the place of two members of the state executive in the Senate preselection panel.

The move was approved by the state executive, which is controlled by the moderate wing of the party, and was overseen by state party director Chris Stone, who was the returning officer in the preselection and until three weeks ago was an employee of Premier State Consulting, the lobbying firm run by Mr Photios and Mr Campbell.

The preselection vote on Saturday installed Hollie Hughes as the leading candidate, followed by Senator Fierravanti-Wells and Mr Molan, in defiance of the view from the Prime Minister and others that the Minister for International Development should gain the No 1 spot. Mr Molan was the special envoy of Operation Sov­ereign Borders.

The Australian was told Mr Photios and Mr Campbell ­“cajoled” preselectors and “worked the room” to ensure the outcome, exercising influence that has become a commonplace but contentious aspect of NSW preselections.

Sky News, 21 March 2016:

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has taken a swipe at the way Liberal preselections are held in NSW, 'daring' the state executive to suspend his membership for speaking out against the process.

Last month, three liberal members - including Sky News contributor Ross Cameron - were suspended from the party over their calls for direct preselection of candidates via plebiscites.
Tony Abbott, who supports the party's Howard Reforms, told Sky News the men 'were making perfectly reasonable points about the factional stitch up that we've seen again and again in the NSW Liberal Party - they were just saying what needed to be said.'

The former PM also issued a directive to the party in NSW - 'In a sense I dare the state executive to suspend me for saying we need reform in the NSW Liberal Party,' Mr Abbott said.

ABC News, 22 March 2016:

Four sitting West Australian federal Liberal MPs are being challenged for preselection in their seats ahead of this year's election, and a wide range of candidates have nominated for the new seat of Burt.

As previously confirmed, former State Liberal Party Director Ben Morton will try to topple Dennis Jensen in Tangney, where Dr Jensen has twice before lost the support of local members before being endorsed by the party's State Council.

In the seat of Swan, Steve Irons will be challenged by Suncorp Insurance state manager Carl Pallier; Durack MP Melissa Price will battle against geologist David Archibald; and Bunbury local Ben Small will take on Forrest MP Nola Marino.

The Australian, 24 March 2016:

Julie Bishop is in it and so is Arthur Sinodinos. Lucy Turnbull is a foundation member.
Yet the “inner circle” at the top of the federal government does not seem to include Scott Morrison.
Malcolm Turnbull yesterday acknowledged that the Treasurer was not part of the small group told beforehand that the federal budget would be brought forward a week to prepare for a July 2 election.
“I did not call Scott Morrison on Sunday night. No, I did not,” the Prime Minister told the Nine Network’s Lisa Wilkinson yesterday when pressed on the matter. “It was a very small circle,” he added.
The impression is that Morris­on is a mere comet in the Turnbull solar system, circling close to the sun on some occasions while hurtling into the distance on others.
This has observers mystified. How could the Treasurer not be told as soon as possible of the final decision to bring forward the budget — the document that has his name on its title page?

The Australian, 24 March 2016:

Malcolm Turnbull criticised Scott Morrison over his handling of the GST in front of cabinet colleagues during a dinner at The Lodge.
Some of the Treasurer’s colleagues saw the Prime Minister’s remarks at the February 21 dinner­ as a dressing-down.
The Australian understands Mr Turnbull told Mr Morrison his continued hard sell on raising the GST had shown the government in a bad light and was causing it difficulty.
The dinner at The Lodge that Sunday night was not a full meeting of the cabinet, but many ministers attended. The Prime Minister is also understood over the course of that weekend to have asked the Treasurer to pull back on his media commitments, concerned at his poor performance that week at the National Press Club and in a series of talkback radio intervi­ews, where he spoke about “unicorns” and “pixie horses” and was criticised for lacking vision.
The following day, Newspoll in The Australian showed the government had lost its two-party-preferred lead over Labor and was tied at 50-50, which Mr Turnbull is understood to have sheeted home to Mr Morrison’s poor media performance.
It was the first concerning poll for Mr Turnbull, ending his personal honeymoon. Before then, the Coalition had held a two-party-preferred lead of 53 per cent to 47 per cent for three months.
When The Australian put questions to the offices of Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull about the terse exchange during the dinner, ­neither denied it had occurred.

The Australian, 24 March 2016:

Abbott likes to give the impression he is helping, but he knows full well he is not. He must know that because he is not totally stupid.
It may satisfy his bloodlust, and those egging him on, to see Turnbull lose the election, but the Liberal Party will not thank him, except for that unhinged, ground-zero minority that wants to see the Liberal Party razed under Turnbull and Bill Shorten become prime minister.


The Star, 23 March 2016:

“It’s very easy for me to campaign ... because the Turnbull government is running on the Abbott government’s record,” said Abbot in an interview with Sky News yesterday.
“It’s a very strong record,” he said, citing the hardline immigration policy that deterred the flow of asylum seeker boats, and a string of free trade agreements.
Abbott remains in parliament but had pledged not to interfere after Turnbull’s takeover, promising on his departure there would be “no wrecking, no undermining, no sniping”.
However, he has continued to intervene, to the delight of a hardcore of right-wing lawmakers who reputedly still entertain the thought of returning him to the top job in the near future.
Turnbull, who has lambasted Abbott’s economic management, hit back last Friday against the putdown which could spell trouble ahead of general elections which he has said could come as soon as July.
“He’s not right,” the prime minister said of his predecessor. “The bottom line is there is continuity and there is change.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2016:

Howard government minister Peter Reith has told Tony Abbott to "keep his head down", warning he would endanger his reputation in the Liberal Party if he persisted in undermining Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Coalition figures are nervous about Mr Abbott's plans to campaign in marginal seats during the upcoming federal election, amid consistent signs the former prime minister is reneging on his promise not to undermine the government……
Mr Abbott's burst of public activity, including newspaper interviews and television appearances, has rattled Coalition figures within and outside the Parliament. Mr Reith warned it had the potential to damage his the former PM's standing within the Liberal Party. "He really does need to keep his head down for his own sake, otherwise he will be trashing his own reputation," he said.

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