A petition calling for the heads of local Liberal Party officials in the wake of the Federal election loss is on hold as the opposing factions work towards a negotiated path to reform.
In July, the so-called moderate faction, the Menzies Group, wrote to Liberal supporters urging them to back the petition, which calls for a meeting of the Divisional Council to consider a motion demanding the resignation of the five members of the Management Committee.
The letter, signed by Cathie Humphries, wife of ousted former senator Gary Humphries, said the election result was the most profound rejection of the Liberal Party in a generation, with the Senate loss of right-wing power broker Zed Seselja particularly painful.
It said the result pointed to deeper problems in the ACT Division, coming after the 2020 Legislative Assembly rout.
“We believe that only a wholesale cleaning out of the Management Committee will allow for the new direction, which is essential if we are to reverse this spiral into failure,” the letter said.
But it appears the Menzies Group has changed tack and is now pursuing talks about reform, including increasing the representation of moderates on the Management Committee.
Mr Humphries, who is overseas until October, confirmed that the Group had collected the necessary number of signatures to bring about a special meeting of the Canberra Liberals Divisional Council.
“However, discussions have commenced between the Group and other members of the division about options for future reform, and in those circumstances, the petition is on hold,” he said.
It is believed the motion in the petition could have been moved at a Divisional Council meeting in August, but in any case, all party positions are up for re-election at the November AGM as per the party’s constitution.
It is believed Mr Humphries would like to be president, but some think he has too much baggage, and current President John Cziesla wants to stay in the position.
The Menzies Group is negotiating with the so-called ‘pragmatic Right’, including former MLA Candice Burch and Gerry Wheeler, separate from the Seselja-led Right, which has dominated the Canberra Liberals for a decade.
It is believed Mr Humphries has been unable to secure a commitment from the pragmatic Right to support the petition.
But not all are happy with this strategy and fear that while the moderates might get a few seats on the Management Committee, the same people will end up running the party.
Some say the pragmatic Right’s aim is to get one of their own through pre-selection to try to win back the Senate seat from Independent David Pocock.
There is also concern about Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee’s inability or unwillingness to use her authority to demand change, and rumours persist of the Right’s Jeremy Hanson still wanting to be Leader again.
Some fear without change the party is vulnerable to a Pocock-style community independents push at the 2024 election.
The Menzies Group made submissions to the party’s review of the Federal election loss, which closed in mid-August.