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Perrottet says ‘disillusioned’ party faces uphill battle after federal failure

Written by Javed Iqbal

Perrottet announced that the candidate preselection for the March state election would open in two weeks, directly calling out the federal preselection debacle and admitting that ward members were right to feel they had been disenfranchised.

“One of the most important rights of party members is the power to choose candidates to represent your values,” he said, insisting he wanted more women and greater cultural diversity ahead of the state poll.

The prime minister said he was not backing down from his conservatism but opposed standing still in the interests of tradition, citing freedom, families, faith and integrity as central to his “brand” of conservatism.

“It’s about taking best from our past into the future, but innovate and modernize everything else,” he said.

“I agree with our greatest Prime Minister John Howard when he said that the Liberal Party is at its best when it balances and blends its liberal and conservative traditions.”

Perrottet’s address attracted a standing ovation from the roughly 800 in attendance at Rosehill Gardens’ exhibition hall.

Deputy Union Leader and Shadow Minister for Women Sussan Ley.

Deputy Union Leader and Shadow Minister for Women Sussan Ley.Credit:James Alcock

Members said the delivery sparked a lift in mood in the room, which had been largely flat during earlier motions and a speech by Ley in Dutton’s absence.

Two months after the federal election, Ley told the faithful that Labor “wants you to believe that Australia, the lucky country, has become Australia, the left-wing country. That is complete rubbish”.

“The Liberal Party has been written off before, but let me assure you, under Peter Dutton’s leadership, we have three great years ahead,” she said, before addressing Labor’s dismantling of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Ley said she felt as proud of the party as the day she painted blue a caravan she lived in as a chef and covered it with Liberal party logos.

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A party member, who is not authorized to speak publicly on party matters, said it was an “underwhelming and uninspiring” speech that highlighted how much work the party needed to do to be able to win a federal election again.

“This is the position that Julie Bishop has held for a long, long time. When you compare the two, it’s pretty grim,” they said.

They added that it was “not lost on anyone in the room” that Ley would not be there if it were not for the types of interventions by Morrison and his key ally Alex Hawke that the General Assembly voted to stop.

Ley’s preselection was under threat during the federal election, leading to a personal intervention by Morrison to overrule local party members.

An urgent motion on Saturday to expel Hawke, who was present from the Liberal Party, failed to gain the necessary 60 per cent support, but members in the room said support was as high as 30 per cent.

Hawke was also a target for the so-called Sydney movement, require the party to establish a “clear timetable” for selecting candidates and limit the power of the “leader’s representative” to interfere in the process.

The Sydney motion was drafted by Bragg and Warringah local Jane Buncle, both from the party’s moderate faction.

The Council of State came days out from Tuesday’s vote by the state’s Liberal MPs for a new Deputy Speaker, after Ayres was forced to resign last week over concerns about his role in the Barilaro trading job saga.

Treasurer Matt Kean and Transport Minister David Elliott are facing off for the post, which mainly involves managing internal party affairs.

Kean was among the state MPs present on Saturday, along with ministerial colleagues Rob Stokes, Victor Dominello, James Griffin, Damien Tudehope, Alistair Henskens and Mark Coure. Other federal frontbenchers at the General Assembly included Angus Taylor, Paul Fletcher, Julian Leeser, Melissa McIntosh and Hollie Hughes.

Voting also opened on Saturday for the party’s new state leader and to replace outgoing president and party elder Philip Ruddock. Voting will continue in the coming weeks.

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Javed Iqbal

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