Liberal seniors fear party warfare will cost key seats

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Dr Allen holds his Higgins seat in Melbourne’s inner southeast by a 3.7 per cent margin and will be contested by Labor, while Mr Zimmerman holds North Sydney by a 9.4 per cent margin and makes facing a fight with independent Kylie Tink.

Ms McQueen, who has courted controversy in the past, said Mr Morrison “travelled very well” and was optimistic the Coalition could win fringe seats including Dobell, Paterson and Shortland and even Eden-Monaro in New South Wales, but it foreshadowed losses elsewhere. .

Hornsby Shire Mayor and NSW Liberal Party Chairman Philip Ruddock.Credit:Mick Tsikas

“There are places that will have to be compensated. I think Trent Zimmerman may have a lot of problems…I think in Victoria Katie Allen will have problems as well, but we’ll be fine with regional areas in Victoria.

She added that ‘until Labor comes back we have no chance in Warringah’, referring to the once Blue Ribbon Liberal seat held by Tony Abbott who lost it to independent Zali Steggall in 2019, and acknowledged the widespread anger within the NSW division. .

“There are certainly members of the party who have grievances [about NSW preselections], I too have grievances. But at this particular time, I urge all members to support their candidates,” she said.

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Mr Ruddock, who last week signaled that the NSW branch constitution would be reviewed after the election due to the bitter factional fight over pre-selections which eventually went to the High Court, acknowledged the impact of the pre-selection delays on the upcoming electoral fight.

“I think it’s perfectly obvious that if you have the opportunity to be [campaigning] in the field, if you are not particularly known locally [as a candidate]it can improve your chances of success,” he said.

When asked if the factional infighting, public attacks on Mr Morrison – including by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, NSW State MP Catherine Cusack and former Liberal candidate Michael Towke – and delays in shortlisting candidates meant NSW no longer offered a path to victory, Mr Ruddock said: ‘I’ve never been a commentator on these sorts of topics, but I never say never’.

Coalition strategists have targeted NSW as the state in which the federal coalition is most likely to win seats, with up to 10 seats held by Labor in the party’s sights since last year, while seeking firewalled 23 of the 30 seats it holds in Queensland and 11 of 16 in Western Australia (although one will be dropped in a redistribution).

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In Victoria, the government is hoping to hold the ultra-marginal seat of Chisholm while some party members believe Corangamite and McEwen, centered on Geelong in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, could be within reach due to disaffection with the Victorian state government.

The Herald of the Sun and Sunday age spoke to 11 members of the parliamentary Liberal Party from across the country over the past week to gauge their concern about whether factional infighting has hurt the party’s electoral chances.

MPs, who all asked not to be named so they could speak freely, were roughly evenly split between those who said the dispute would hurt their chances and those who thought it would be forgotten on Election Day .

A negative assessment from an NSW MP was that Mr Morrison was now ‘very, very unpopular’ in Sydney and that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was far more popular than the Prime Minister.

The MP said Mr Frydenberg – facing a fight to retain his Victorian Kooyong seat from self-styled teal independent Monique Ryan – would be required to sacrifice city center seats such as those of Mr Zimmerman and Wentworth, owned by Dave Sharma, also independents.

Premier Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Premier Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

There were four consequences of the NSW factional war, the MP added: “Firstly, it is more difficult to overcome Morrison’s unpopularity. Second, it is more difficult to manage cabins [with volunteers]. Third, fundraising is harder and fourth, Bob Hawke’s principle: If you can’t govern yourself, you can’t govern the country.

The contrary view among MPs, however, is that while the High Court challenge to pre-selections and large-scale character assessments had been damaging to the party, they were far from fatal.

“The factional stuff wasn’t helpful. People are perplexed by this, but they will be overwhelmed by the issues of the campaign. I just don’t think people will be raising it in six weeks,’ the MP said.

A third MP said that “at the moment the election is a referendum on Morrison and we lose every day of the week if it comes to him. The sooner we can move from that to him against Albo or team against team, the better.

To that end, the MP said Mr Frydenberg, campaign spokespersons and senior ministers Simon Birmingham and Anne Ruston (who is expected to replace Greg Hunt as health minister), defense minister Peter Dutton and Home Secretary Karen Andrews are expected to be deployed in a much less presidential campaign than in 2019.

The government starts with a notional 76 seats in this election (assuming the return of Hughes from the United Australia Party), which is the narrowest of majorities at a time when national polls suggest a significant swing against the government.

Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, opinion and expert analysis. Sign up for our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.

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