Infighting and redistribution issues plague Dominic Perrottet’s preselection push

Dominic Perrottet was adamant history would not repeat itself for the NSW Liberals.

The premier had witnessed first-hand the chaos that wracked the party’s pre-elections ahead of May’s federal election.

It was obvious that things would have to be different for the impending state ballot, to be held in March 2023, if Mr Perrottet was to campaign effectively and retain government, unlike his colleagues in Canberra.

But five months later, the Liberals are once again grappling with internal issues that are spilling over into the public eye.

At the time of the federal election, Mr. Perrottet expressed his disappointment with the messy pre-selections, which were stalled by factional wrangling.

Eventually, he and the Prime Minister had to intervene.

Some Liberal candidates in crucial seats had only a few weeks to campaign.

At the party’s state conference in August, the premier said there would be early screenings.

“Within two weeks we will be opening statewide pre-selections for the next election,” the prime minister said to applause, before adding, “I want to see more women, I want to see more diversity cultural”.

Almost three months later, while some incumbent MPs have been approved to stand in the March elections, no shortlist for a new candidate has been finalized.

And the government has 12 deputies who are retiring, including nine Liberals.

The circumstances surrounding the delayed pre-selections are different from those of the federal election, and they have been complicated by redistribution.

But there have also been factional battles, and the lack of potential female and culturally diverse candidates is evident.

David Elliott announced his retirement last weekend.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

The infighting was exposed by Transport Minister David Elliott, who announced last weekend that he did not have enough popular support to contest the election.

The boundaries of Mr Elliott’s Baulkham Hills electorate were redrawn and the seat renamed Kellyville.

The redistribution has also impacted the nearby Castle Hill seat, held by the minister’s centre-right ally, Ray Williams.

The plan was for Mr. Williams to run for Kellyville and Mr. Elliott for Castle Hill, but the rival right-wing faction controls the numbers at Castle Hill.

The Prime Minister’s brother, Charles Perrottet, is instrumental in the right faction, something Mr Elliott was keen to point out.

“I’m not targeting anyone,” the transport minister said on Wednesday.

“It is an observation, we have factions and we have faction leaders.

“There was an agreement between the faction leaders, that’s why I can’t win the pre-selection.”

Mr Elliott also expressed concerns about the “character” of the man now likely to win preselection at Castle Hill, Noel McCoy.

The conservative views of the former Young Liberals president and attorney regarding changing the parameters of abortion policy have been widely reported.

Mr. McCoy is not locked in as a candidate because the shortlist did not take place.

As the pre-selection drama in Sydney’s North West unfolded publicly this week, another minister quietly pulled out of a contest on the northern beaches.

A woman
Natasha Maclaren-Jones isn’t the only Liberal candidate to show interest in Pittwater.(PA: Dan Himbrechts)

Last month, Family and Community Services Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones was quick to announce she wanted to run for the Pittwater seat when Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes announced his retirement .

She hoped to move from the upper house to the lower house.

But Northern Beaches councilor Rory Amon appears to have numbers in the branches and is poised to win the shortlist.

There is another candidate, Claire Longley – the daughter of former Pittwater MP Jim Longley – but there are issues with her Liberal Party membership.

The ABC understands that there is pressure within the government and the party to get this sorted out, to allow him to stand for pre-selection.

Roads Minister and Upper House MP Natalie Ward is trying to be shortlisted for Davidson’s seat on the Lower North Shore, which would boost female representation in the Lower House.

But it’s proving to be a tough transition as she faces a close fight with former Liberal staffer Matt Cross.

The ABC understands that it has had its eye on the seat for years.

Current MP Jonathan O’Dea is retiring in the election and Mr Cross is unwilling to make way for Ms Ward.

Meanwhile, former retired minister Shelley Hancock, based on the South Coast, and Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, in Ryde, are both set to be replaced by male candidates.

But, again, the candidates were not locked in, so that they could start campaigning, because the preselections did not take place.

Gabrielle Upton
Three women are in the running to replace Gabrielle Upton as Liberal MP for Vaucluse. (ABC News)

In the seat of the eastern suburbs of Vaucluse, the Liberals are certain to present a female candidate because the three candidates are women.

But that won’t increase women’s representation across the party as they replace former Attorney General Gabrielle Upton.

The Vaucluse is the first pre-selection to take place, which will take place this week, while almost all the others do not yet have a date set.

For such an optimistic Prime Minister the NSW Liberals would learn from their messy federal pre-selections, what has happened in his state so far suggests little has changed.