A preselection vote on Monday night for the Canberra Liberals in the southern seat of Brindabella attracted just 34 ballots, highlighting the declining membership of political parties and the low turnout for the party’s new two-stage voting system.
All three sitting members – Andrew Wall, Nicole Lawder and Mark Parton – were re-endorsed. Mr Parton secured his spot on the ticket for next year’s Legislative Assembly election with four first-preference votes.
Mr Wall topped the ballot with 19 votes, Ms Lawder won eight votes and three were unaccounted for, according to a source close to the party.
The three Brindabella MLAs are all on the Liberals’ front bench, with Ms Lawder the party’s deputy leader.
This is the first preselection for the Canberra Liberals using the two-stage process. Incumbent MLAs seeking re-endorsement in the five electorates compete in the first round before aspiring MLAs vie to fill the remaining spots on the Liberals’ ticket in a separate voting process in November.
Canberra Liberals president John Cziesla has said the new approach will give people outside the Assembly a better opportunity to build their profile among the party membership. He believes it’s now easier for non-incumbents to be preselected as they won’t be competing against sitting MLAs.
Mr Cziesla told Region Media the process was ongoing, but all MLAs that have stood for preselection had been endorsed by their electorate branches for the 2020 campaign.
But he did not confirm the number of votes each candidate received, or explain how the first round of preselection was not simply rubber stamping the re-endorsement of incumbents.
In response to questions about the number of votes Mr Parton won, Mr Cziesla said the preselection process was conducted using the Hare-Clarke method so first preference votes did not always fully reflect the level of support for a preselected candidate.
The successful candidates preselected for the Canberra Liberals will be announced at the conclusion of the first round of voting across all five ACT electorates.
“The second round of preselection in November will focus exclusively on new candidates who will join the team to win Government in 2020,” Mr Cziesla said.
The Labor Party is also conducting its preselection ballots this month, two months earlier than usual ahead of its bid for a sixth term.
The ACT goes to the polls on 17 October 2020.