THE defender of Liberal members’ constitutional right to select candidates has been expelled from the Party, as Scott Morrison keeps his “captain’s picks”.
State Executive board member Matthew Camenzuli, who took his fight to the High Court this week, was removed from the Party on Wednesday on ridiculed claims he had damaged the Party’s re-election prospects.
Mr Camenzuli had pushed back on federal executive moves to take control of the NSW Liberal division and impose 12 candidates on members without preselections, as required by the Party’s constitution.
After earlier winning a Supreme Court case preventing the NSW executive from being dissolved, Mr Camenzuli set his sights on having Mr Morrison’s “captain’s picks” reversed.
The NSW Court of Appeal, however, ruled that his case was “non-justiciable”, or outside the power of the court to rule on, effectively backing the Prime Minister’s candidate selections.
On seeking urgent special leave from the High Court this week, Mr Camenzuli’s appeal was refused on the grounds that there was “insufficient prospect of appeal from that decision”.
In relation to legal costs, the court said: “We have considered the written submissions concerning costs, and see no reason why the applicant should not pay costs.”
The High Court’s decision opens the way for the Prime Minister to call an election without a legal cloud over his 12 hand-selected NSW candidates.
These include his centre-Right ally Alex Hawke, Left faction organiser Trent Zimmerman and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, also a Left factional player.
While Party officials hope the decision puts the issue to rest, many members remain angry and have blamed Messrs Morrison and Hawke for delaying preselections until it was late enough to justify federal intervention.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose former seat of Warringah was caught up in the dispute, told Sky News this week that internal brawling “hardly helps”.
“As soon as the election is over, we really do need to have a very tough conversation about delivering to Liberal Party members the democratic commitment made to them back in 2016 and 2017,” he said.
“Let’s win this election, let’s fight the good fight, but then things have got to be sorted out, commitments have to be honoured.”
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Camenzuli, a senior player in the NSW conservative faction, was this week removed from an online State Executive meeting.
He was replaced by the Left’s Cristina Talacko, a convenor of the Party’s environmental group Coalition for Conservation.
In an email to Party members just prior to his expulsion Mr Camenzuli said “our leaders have failed us”, according to the Herald.
“Right now, your leaders are asking you to dig deep while they silence you,” he wrote.
“You are denied even the few preselection plebiscites that were originally planned for NSW.” PC