Some of Scott Morrison’s closest party-room allies could face internal challenges for their seats after a Supreme Court decision handed down Friday.
Mr Morrison had backed a plan to have the Liberal Party intervene and stop three sitting MPs – Alex Hawke, Sussan Ley and Trent Zimmerman – from facing internal party contests.
The Prime Minister and the federal Liberal Party gave the party’s NSW division until Monday to hold a long-delayed annual general meeting, as well as preselect candidates for three seats currently held by sitting Liberal MPs and Morrison allies Alex Hawke, Sussan Ley and Trent Zimmerman.
Matthew Camenzuli, from the New South Wales hard right faction, successfully challenged legal advice obtained by the party which suggested state Liberal officials cease to hold office after February 28 due to a failure to hold the annual general meeting.
NSW Supreme Court Justice Julie Ward upheld Mr Camenzuli’s challenge on Friday and declared members of the state executive could remain in office under the party’s constitution.
The ruling means Mr Hawke, Ms Ley and Mr Zimmerman, all allies of Mr Morrison, could face preselection challenges for their seats ahead of this year’s federal election.
Candidates in those seats had expected preselections to be finalised not later than the middle of last month.
The process has instead dragged on in what sceptics say is a deliberate move to protect the Prime Minister’s and Mr Hawke’s faction.
Typically, the sitting MPs would have already been through a nomination review committee and then a competitive ballot, or plebiscite, if they had faced a challenger.
At issue is a complicated deal designed to ensure sitting MPs are protected but also notionally dividing preselections between the party’s main three factional groups.
Among the other preselection deals up in the air is a plan to install moderate factional player Alex Dore into the seat of Hughes, currently occupied by the vaccination sceptic and former Liberal Craig Kelly.