Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - HAR­RI­SON TIPPET

LIB­ERAL Party in­fight­ing ap­pears to be damp­en­ing the pre­s­e­lec­tion race on the Bel­lar­ine.

Just days af­ter rais­ing se­ri­ous con­cerns of “un­eth­i­cal” branch poach­ing, Por­tar­ling­ton-St Leonards branch chair Peter Groves has re­port­edly been asked to stand down.

It is also un­der­stood Bel­lar­ine State Elec­toral Con­fer­ence’s (SEC) ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber John Gillett has re­signed from his po­si­tion.

Yes­ter­day, Mr Groves would not say whether he’d been asked to step down from his po­si­tion by Bel­lar­ine SEC chair Charles Henry.

“I’m not go­ing to an­swer that,” Mr Groves said.

“I don’t want to be im­pli­cated, be­cause it’s gone far enough. I’m still pres­i­dent of the Por­tar­ling­ton branch.

“I’m not a per­son to take a back­wards step, and I will be push­ing for­ward as if noth­ing is hap­pen­ing.”

Last week the Gee­long Ad­vertiser ob­tained a copy of a let­ter to Mr Henry, signed off by Mr Groves and the Por­tar­ling­ton and St Leonards branch, rais­ing se­ri­ous con­cerns He­len White­side had con­tacted mem­bers, ask­ing them to move their mem­ber­ship to the North Bel­lar­ine branch and vote for her dur­ing pre­s­e­lec­tion.

Ms White­side, a for­mer Glen Eira mayor and Lib­eral Party stal­wart, is un­der­stood to be likely to put her hand up for pre­s­e­lec­tion to stand for the La­bor-held seat of Bel­lar­ine.

In a re­sponse to the let­ter, seen by the Addy, Mr Henry said sug­gest­ing mem­bers change branches was “to be dis­cour­aged”, and called for unity be­tween the lo­cal branches.

The Gee­long Ad­vertiser was un­able to con­tact Mr Gillett yes­ter­day.

The pre­s­e­lec­tion process for Lib­eral can­di­dates to con­test the seats of Gee­long and Bel­lar­ine in Novem­ber’s state elec­tion was opened ear­lier this month.

Ms White­side and Surf Coast po­lice­man and coun­cil­lor Brian McKi­t­er­ick are un­der­stood to be in the mix for pre­s­e­lec­tion in Bel­lar­ine — where they would run against La­bor’s po­lice min­is­ter Lisa Neville.

Ms Neville won the 2014 state elec­tion with 54.84 per cent of the two-party pre­ferred vote.

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