LNP’s rearguard action
A MAJOR campaign is underway behind the scenes within the LNP to head off an attempt to end the political careers of three Opposition MPs who backed abortion decriminalisation.
Tim Nicholls, Steve Minnikin and Jann Stuckey have been under fire since they used the conscience vote they were granted by the LNP party room to back the Termination of Pregnancy Bill last month.
They did not break party rules by exercising their vote the way they did.
But they did vote against the party’s abortion law policy that the LNP not support any changes.
And that has filled many with “white hot rage”.
Motions have been passed in local branches and by the Young LNP to support a push at this coming weekend’s meeting of the powerful LNP State Council to block the trio from being able to seek preselection to run again at the next state election.
The State Council meeting is taking place just a month after the abortion Bill vote in the conservative stronghold of Bundaberg.
But a week is a long time in politics and many senior party members, current and former state and federal MPs and party elders are hoping four weeks will have been enough time to ease the thirst of those baying for the trio’s blood.
Several influential moderate, and some more hard-line, party members have been heavily lobbying their angry State Council colleagues in a bid to convince them how damaging any attempt to dump the trio over their vote will be. Both inside the party and out. Conscience votes might not be in the party’s rules but it is a long-held convention of the parliamentary wing that one can be granted for matters of life and death. And most current and former MPs hold that ability very dear.
Some, like Warren Entsch, have already publicly warned any action taken against the MPs could sound the death knell for the merged party.
On the flip side, not doing anything could also further anger a growing, harder right section of the party’s membership that has already been flexing its muscles in recent weeks.
Crisis talks are understood to have been held at State Parliament last sitting week between Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, Tim Mander and senior party figures to nut out a way forward.
Both Ms Frecklington and Mr Mander have publicly declared they will support their MPs and have defended their right to the conscience vote.
It is understood a compromise could be reached whereby an influential State Council member can rise to reprimand the trio from the floor next weekend over their decision not to vote in line with party policy.
This would be instead of a formal urgency motion to block their ability to seek preselection ahead of the 2020 state poll.
It might not stop a future State Council moving to reject their nominations, but it would allow their local branches to have the ability to decide for themselves if they want to recommend that the MPs should be given another go.
All three are understood to have the support of those branches – their state electorate councils – at this stage at least.