NSW Liberals fail to resolve preselection impasse raising prospect of federal intervention

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

The New South Wales Liberal party has failed to resolve its preselection impasse for federal candidates and has delayed the issue until next week, dramatically raising the prospects that a federal intervention will be required.

The 27-member state executive met on Friday night for less than two hours, but did not consider a controversial deal which was designed to placate the warring factions and settle a number of key seats by bypassing branch votes.

Instead factional organisers said the proposed peace deal, which requires 90% support to be accepted, would be put to the state executive during the week via an electronic ballot.

This would give the factional leaders more time to either scrap unpopular parts of the deal or try to win support for it.

Related: NSW Liberals’ preselection battle: what is at stake and who will win?

In particular a proposal to put the former Young Liberal president, Alex Dore, into the seat of Hughes had riled local members, who were denied the right to participate in a preselection process for the third time running and did not want to see a person from outside the seat parachuted in. Dore is from Manly.

There were also questions about whether the part of the deal relating to Dobell would stick, after one candidate had allegedly withdrawn. This could not be confirmed.

The process for filling the third spot on the Senate ticket was also still causing angst.

New rules for choosing candidates in NSW, championed by the right and former prime minister Tony Abbott, introduced a much greater level of grassroots democracy into the party.

But the rules have led to some unexpected outcomes, including challenges to two ministers and bruising competitions in others.

As a result the Liberal party has been without candidates in many key battleground seats.

The deal, hammered out by factional negotiators a week ago, involves avoiding rank and file votes in all seats held by federal MPs who are facing challenges. That means the MP Trent Zimmerman would be re-endorsed for North Sydney; the environment minister, Sussan Ley, would survive a challenge in the southern NSW seat of Farrer; and the immigration minister and centre right faction heavyweight, Alex Hawke, would remain as the Liberal candidate in Mitchell.

Some branch preselections would proceed – Bennelong, Warringah and Parramatta – but in these cases the outcomes are more certain.

But other parts of the peace deal remain unacceptable, particularly to the branch members in Hughes.

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There have been threats of legal action against the director of the state division if ballots are scrapped, or the process delayed further. The other possibility is the federal branch takes over, but this too could prompt messy legal battles.

There are also internal frictions over the NSW Senate ticket, with a proposal to automatically endorse the foreign minister, Marise Payne, as top of the ticket, but the next Liberal spot, No 3, would go to a ballot.

This would likely see two current senators, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Jim Molan, face off for the winnable spot. There was also speculation that Dallas McInerney, the CEO of Catholic Schools NSW and a key figure in the right, would contest.

The state executive has endorsed the candidate for Reid and confirmed the communications minister, Paul Fletcher, as the Bradfield candidate because there was no challengers.

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