Gary Kent. Photo: Elesa Lee
The chaos engulfing the Canberra Liberals continues with Senate candidate Zed Seselja publicly attacking former party president Gary Kent and a special meeting to consider overturning the party’s preselection postponed.
Mr Seselja has accused Mr Kent, who has driven the push to have Mr Seselja's preselection overturned, for leaving the party in “pieces” after his time at the helm of the ACT division.
The meeting to consider a second round preselection, called after a petition by disaffected party members, was to be held on March 15.
But the meeting has been cancelled because the party did not provide sufficient notice to members. Mr Kent said a new date for the meeting still had to be announced.
Mr Seselja described on ABC radio on Thursday Mr Kent as the leader of the “disgruntled rump” who “have been out there slagging the party publicly”.
“Many members would remember what it was like when Gary Kent was leading the party a few years ago,” Mr Seselja said.
“A number of us had to pick up the pieces after he last led it."
Mr Seselja said the divisional council meeting would decide “whether to uphold the constitution and whether or not to go back to the days of the leadership of people like Gary Kent which existed five years ago”.
Mr Kent defended his record in the party and said “my objective is to ensure a fair preselection”.
“I’m not interested in getting into personalities,” he told Fairfax Media.
"I have been buoyed by the support of hundreds of party members.
“No matter who is ultimately preselected to represent the Canberra Liberals in the election this year, they will have my 100 per cent support.
“However, I am proud of my record as the longest serving Liberals president and believe I made a substantial contribution over those many years.”
Mr Kent said he was waiting for the party to announce a new date and location for the divisional council meeting.
“The reason it has been deferred is they didn’t give people enough notice,” he said.
In an email to the ACT division members on Wednesday, Mr Kent said “that at this late stage the Division cannot get these simple things right is very disturbing”.
Senator Humphries welcomed the decision.
"The last thing the party needs is a big meeting of party members that gets declared invalid after it is over, so it is a good thing that we will have a chance to deal with the issue that has been raised, but it won't obviously won't be next week. It will be some other time," he told ABC radio.
More than 280 Canberra Liberals flocked to branch meetings last week to secure qualifying status for a second round preselection.
The deferral of the divisional council means a March 19 meeting of the party’s largest branch, the central electorate branch, will also secure voting rights for members who attend.
The branch's chairwoman, Anne Ryan, cancelled a meeting of the branch last week and had called for the divisional council to be deferred to give more of her membership, estimated at about 350, time to qualify.
Senator Humphries said he expected it would be a well attended meeting.
"Obviously it does appear that across the party members are anxious to get their voting status up to date, and that means that when decisions are made in the future the party membership will be able to speak decisively about what they think should happen to the party's processes in the future," he said on the ABC.
The bitter feud over the party’s preselection has been raging since former ACT opposition leader Mr Seselja announced in February he would challenge Senator Gary Humphries for his upper house seat.
Mr Seselja won the February 23 ballot 114 votes to 84 but the result angered many division members who claimed they had been unfairly denied the right to vote.
More than 280 Canberra Liberals flocked to branch meetings last week to secure qualifying status for the second round preselection.