Libs put se­ces­sion back on the ta­ble

The West Australian - - NEWS - Sarah Martin and Nick But­terly

The Lib­eral Party faces an in­ter­nal push to ex­am­ine if WA should se­cede from the Com­mon­wealth, with a mo­tion for a spe­cial “WAxit” com­mit­tee to be de­bated at the party’s an­nual con­fer­ence in Perth this week­end.

The move comes amid grow­ing ten­sions be­tween pow­er­ful con­ser­va­tives and mod­er­ates over giv­ing grass­roots mem­bers a greater say in the se­lec­tion of can­di­dates, an is­sue that threat­ens to ex­pose a deep fac­tional rift in the party when mem­bers meet on Satur­day.

A mo­tion from the party’s Brand di­vi­sion calls on the Lib­eral Party to es­tab­lish a com­mit­tee of up to six “es­teemed” party mem­bers, in­clud­ing three for­mer MPs and three mem­bers of the State coun­cil, to look at whether WA should pur­sue in­de­pen­dence from Can­berra.

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and Fed­eral Lib­eral president Nick Greiner are ad­dress­ing the meet­ing. The pro­posal for a “WAxit com­mit­tee” is to ex­am­ine “the op­tion of West­ern Aus­tralia be­com­ing an in­de­pen­dent State within the Com­mon­wealth and an­swer the ques­tion “Should we try?”

Rick Palmer, a fi­nan­cial plan­ner and for­mer can­di­date for the seat of Brand who has drafted the mo­tion, said he be­lieved the com­mit­tee needed to ex­am­ine whether the Fed­er­a­tion was work­ing for WA amid deep dis­con­tent over the na­tional distri­bu­tion of GST pay­ments.

“The gist of it is to cre­ate a com­mit­tee to have a con­ver­sa­tion, make some rec­om­men­da­tions to the party and to make the rest of Aus­tralia aware that WA has had enough,” Mr Palmer said.

Se­nior party sources said they ex­pected the mo­tion to win enough sup­port from the es­ti­mated 500 party mem­bers due to at­tend the con­fer­ence. “It would be a brave per­son to speak against it,” one se­nior WA Lib­eral said.

A mo­tion from the Curtin di­vi­sion ad­vo­cates a floor on GST pay­ments, while the State Op­po­si­tion is be­ing urged to call for a study into the mer­its of WA’s mem­ber­ship of the Fed­er­a­tion.

Other mo­tions in­clude pushes from young Lib­er­als to abol­ish the min­i­mum wage and pre­serve the na­tional an­them, and abol­ish­ing Sec­tion 18C of the Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act and the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion an elec­tion pledge.

But the policy de­bate could be over­shad­owed by a fac­tional stoush over party “democrati­sa­tion”, which is gain­ing mo­men­tum within the mod­er­ate wing, but which is also be­ing backed by con­ser­va­tives in the East­ern States. Last week For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop called for more democ­racy in the State party, po­ten­tially plac­ing her at odds with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Mathias Cor­mann — a right wing power­bro­ker.

In an email to WA Lib­er­als, East­ern States Lib­er­als ad­vo­cat­ing for greater democrati­sa­tion of the party crit­i­cised Sen­a­tor Cor­mann over a speech he gave on the evils of so­cial­ism, say­ing the ab­sence of democ­racy had al­lowed peo­ple to be “en­slaved” un­der so­cial­ism.

The email from Tony Ab­bott ally Jim Molan and NSW power­bro­ker Wal­ter Vil­la­tora com­plained WA and NSW were the last two States yet to in­tro­duce demo­cratic re­forms.

“The la­bels ‘left’ and ‘right’ are un­help­ful in this de­bate. Those who run fac­tions have lit­tle philo­soph­i­cal depth . . . they are trans­ac­tion­ally driven,” the email said.

The gist is to have a con­ver­sa­tion.

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