News National Abbott’s reform plan squashed, but he claims victory
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Abbott’s reform plan squashed, but he claims victory

malcolm turnbull and tony abbott
Albanese says Abbott and Turnbull are in a 'cage fight'. Photo: AAP
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Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s push to change the New South Wales Liberal Party’s preselection processes has been defeated.

The state council meeting instead voted unanimously to support an alternative motion backed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Mike Baird.

Mr Abbott has claimed credit for the outcome today, saying he had campaigned for change for a long time.

“We only have reform because of the pressure that the Warringah conference and a lot of other good people in the party brought to bear,” he said.

Malcolm Turnbull
Turnbull says his plan is to ‘modernise’ the party. Photo: AAP

“I don’t think for a second the powers that be within the NSW division wanted to reform. They were very happy with the status quo.

“But thanks to a long, long period of pushing in favour of democracy I think now reform is absolutely unstoppable.”

Mr Turnbull and his predecessor put forward similar reform agendas at the meeting today in a bid to give party members greater voting rights in preselections.

It came after a tense week between the two men, where they were at odds in Parliament over whether Mr Abbott was aware of a deal done last year with crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm on gun laws.

Mr Turnbull’s joint reform motion with Mr Baird was broader in scope than Mr Abbott’s motion, which focused on giving each party member a vote in choosing candidates.

The Turnbull-Baird motion was carried unanimously at the meeting this morning.

Mr Abbott’s competing proposal was then rejected 246 to 174.

Mr Turnbull said the changes he backed would increase transparency and improve access to MPs and senators at party meetings.

“I am determined as you are to modernise the Liberal Party,” Mr Turnbull told the meeting.

“Once people join our party it has to be worth their while, otherwise they will very quickly find something else to do with their time.”

He said it was part of a broader aim to rebuild the party’s membership to the size it was 40 years ago.

Move will be finalised at Party Futures Conference

A Liberal source said Mr Abbott’s authority had been “significantly diminished” by the move.

Getty
Abbott and Turnbull have been at odds over Leyonhjelm. Photo: Getty

Mr Abbott had insisted his motion was purely focused on diluting the power of factional warlords in NSW.

But he had previously told Fairfax Media it would be a “very bad look” for the party to vote against his proposal.

Mr Turnbull’s broader motion also proposed extra resources and participation for members and more training for office bearers and candidates.

It is set to be finalised and fleshed out at a Party Futures Conference next year.

But Mr Abbott’s supporters had earlier warned the Turnbull-Baird plan could lead to inaction and delay.

“The Warringah plan is the best plan we have to actually drive changes in the party,” one of Mr Abbott’s backers said this week.

“The powerbrokers have their tentacles through it right now, and if we want to get rid of them then we need one member, one vote, and we need it now.”

-ABC

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