A review into the Canberra Liberals’ defeat at the recent federal election will look into the challenge posed by independents and minor parties running in the Territory.
It follows a historic defeat at the May election where the party lost all of its federal representation for the first time and a Senate seat it had held since 1975 to progressive independent Senator David Pocock.
The review will be headed by former leader of the Liberal Party of Western Australia Dr Mike Nahan and former Victorian Liberal Senator Helen Kroger.
According to an email sent to party members and seen by Region, the review will include an examination of the performance of – and lessons for – the parliamentary team and candidates, Coalition Campaign Headquarters, and the ACT Division.
The review will also examine the party’s electoral performance among different voter segments and propose strategies it could use to regain federal representation.
In a joint statement, Dr Nahan and Mrs Kroger said the review would consult widely to examine all aspects of the election campaign.
“As we carry out this important process, we welcome input from all party members and those involved in the campaign.”
The American-born Dr Nahan was widely criticised throughout his tenure as Liberal Opposition Leader in Western Australia.
He had been state treasurer between 2014 and 2017, but despite clamping down on public sector growth, his tenure was ultimately marred by multi-billion-dollar deficits and downgrades to the state’s credit rating.
Dr Nahan took over as Opposition Leader after the WA Liberals suffered the worst defeat of a sitting government in the state’s history.
He later came under fire for revealing in a press conference in 2018 that he was still a US citizen because of an unresolved tax dispute over a sum of money understood to be thousands of dollars.
Dr Nahan was also embroiled in issues relating to a proposed gold royalty hike and created problems in the Liberal-Nationals relationship by proposing to slash regional spending programs.
He resigned from the party leadership in 2019 and from his seat in 2021 but remains a prominent behind-the-scenes figure in the state party.
Mrs Kroger, ex-wife of former State party president Michael Kroger, became the state party president in 2003. She was later elected to the Senate for Victoria in 2007 before becoming Chief Opposition Whip in the Senate in 2011 and Government Chief Whip in 2013.
She was unsuccessful at the 2013 and 2016 federal elections but remains active in the party as the chair of the women’s council. She’s used her position to push for gender quotas in the party.
Previously, Canberra Liberals’ president John Cziesla blamed a well-funded ‘vicious’ campaign from the left for the Zed Seselja upset loss and accused the media of supporting it.
“Over the last decade, we have faced an unprecedented campaign in relation to its longevity, scale, funding, and viciousness to unseat a single parliamentary seat. By our preliminary estimates, the left has spent in excess of $12 million over the last decade in their efforts to unseat the ACT Liberal Senator,” Mr Cziesla wrote in an email which was then leaked.
“In this, they have been supported by a media that has never really bothered itself with undertaking any meaningful scrutiny of our opponents, their policies, let alone any of their tactics.”
Mr Seselja received more primary votes at the last election than Mr Pocock but failed to garner enough preferences from the likes of the United Australia Party to get across the line. He repeatedly warned voters against the risks of “extreme” candidates like Mr Pocock.
Following the election loss, moderates within the party have attempted to wrest control from party power broker Mr Seselja who has steered the party to the right in recent years.
Mr Seselja ousted then-senator Gary Humphries in a bitter coup in 2013 and has since alienated moderates.
A group of moderates known as the Menzies Group, alarmed at the direction of the party in the ACT, recently wrote to Liberal Party supporters to call for a motion demanding the resignation of the entire management committee.
After the 2020 ACT election loss, moderate Elizabeth Lee took control of the Liberals’ Assembly team, but the organisational side and branches remain controlled by the right faction.
Mr Humphries is among other Liberals who believe Ms Lee must now win support within the organisational wing of the party.
“If she cannot back up her moderate position with policy, then she will be undercut,” he told Region earlier this year.