Edition 1 – All-round CountryWED 09 JUN 2010, Page 005
Lift your game, Abbott orders fractious LNP — PARTY IN CHAOS IN ELECTION LEAD-UP
By Matthew Franklin
TONY Abbott has demanded Queensland’s Liberal National Party lift its performance, savaging the party over poor selection of candidates and lack of focus in the lead-up to the federal election.
Coalition sources told The Australian yesterday the Opposition Leader had expressed “immense frustration” about the LNP in recent weeks, with his concern deepened by Monday’s disendorsement of its candidate for the federal seat of Wright.
The party reopened nominations for the seat after it emerged that the LNP candidate,Â HajnalÂ Ban, had been asked to account to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal over her dealings with the property of a 65-year-old man for whom Ms Ban exercised financial power of attorney.
Ms Ban’s disendorsement followed last month’s expulsion of sitting MP Michael Johnson over claims he sought a $12 million commission for a business deal and kept a slush fund.
LNP president Bruce McIver told The Australian yesterday he did not believe the turmoil would damage the federal Coalition’s chances in the approaching election, but sources said Mr Abbott was angry over the party chaos.
The Opposition Leader refused to comment beyond saying the election preselections were issues for the LNP.
But sources said Mr Abbott had never been comfortable with the endorsement of Ms Ban, who came to prominence after writing about having radical surgery in Russia to have her legs lengthened by 8cm, and he was also critical of the endorsement of 19-year-old Wyatt Roy in the Labor-held seat of Longman, north of Brisbane.
“There’s a view the LNP is focused on a state election that is years away,” one federal source said. “There’s also a view the party thinks voters will come to us because Kevin Rudd is a dud, while Tony is insisting we will have to work for every vote.”
The source said Mr Abbott was happy with some LNP candidates, particularly former MP Warren Entsch in Leichhardt, Ken O’Dowd in Flynn and George Christensen in Dawson.
A senior LNP source said he shared Mr Abbott’s concerns, warning that the LNP, created in 2008 by a merger of the Liberal and Nationals parties, had lost focus. “It certainly needs to sharpen up a bit,” the source said. “It’s not terminal but we’re starting to see the return of people who were involved in factional fighting in the Liberal Party. If they manage to get back in. it will sink the whole show.”
Mr McIver, who has led the party since its formation, said he did not believe the LNP was slipping back into the internal battles that plagued the Liberal Party.
“I don’t think it will be damaging,” Mr McIver said. “I think what Queenslanders want is for candidates of the LNP to be of the highest calibre.”
However, another LNP source said Mr Abbott was right to be angry over the upsets.
“Unfortunately the LNP has been totally taken over by turncoat Liberals and hardcore Bjelke-Petersen-style National Party types, and this has meant precious campaign capability and experience is not being used,” the party source said.
Former Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg, who was instrumental in setting up the LNP, said the party was designed to allow its members to choose candidates.
He said the party was election-ready and focused, with its few malcontents in a tiny minority.