Why Saturday's NSW Liberal Party State Council meeting will be 'most contentious' in 20 years – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Why Saturday's NSW Liberal Party State Council meeting will be 'most contentious' in 20 years

By state political reporter Ashleigh Raper

Updated September 04, 2019 14:38:42

Saturday’s Liberal Party State Council meeting was supposed to be a celebration of its NSW election success, but insiders now believe it will be the most vicious gathering in two decades.

Key points:

  • Two Liberal backbenchers have threatened to move to crossbench if the bill passes the Upper House without amendments
  • Between the opponents in both the upper and lower houses, about 60 per cent of the Liberal party are against it
  • There is pressure for the NSW Premier to intervene and “ease their concerns”

A bill to decriminalise abortion — which is before the NSW Upper House — has split the party.

Conservative MPs Tanya Davies and Kevin Connolly are so angry about the bill, they have threatened to leave the Liberals and sit on the cross bench if it passes unamended — a move that would plunge the Berejiklian Government into minority.

One Liberal source said they were expecting the gathering, which will include both Liberal MPs and the party’s rank and file members, to be “the most contentious State Council meeting in 20 years”.

Liberals from the right faction are flagging they could interrupt the set agenda of the meeting and bring an “urgency motion” to the floor to condemn the bill.

The ABC understands they’ve been canvassing numbers in support over the past few days, while moves are also expected to try and quash that motion before it hits the floor.

But a Liberal source said some within the party were feeling “dreadfully betrayed” by their own Government, which they claim should have been called upon to give more input into the bill, which was introduced by Independent MP Alex Greenwich.

Ms Davies, the former Minister for Women, confirmed she had spoken to the Premier about her intention to defect, while Mr Connolly said “the introduction of the bill and the manner at which it came have put me in an untenable position”.

But their hard-line position that would rob the Government of its two-seat majority is unpopular within the party.

Liberal backbencher Lee Evans told the ABC the plan was flawed.

“Saying we’re going to bring the Government down if we don’t get our own way … it’s just not tenable,” he said.

One senior Coalition source said Ms Davies and Mr Connolly were “holding the Government to ransom on a bill that isn’t a Government bill”.

“[They are] showing a lack of preparedness to accept a vote on conscience,” the senior Coalition source said.

“Unless the conscience is their conscience it’s not acceptable to them.”

Why Saturday's NSW Liberal Party State Council meeting will be 'most contentious' in 20 years - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Video: MPs cheer as abortion bill passes in NSW. (ABC News)

Nineteen out of 33 Liberals who were in the Lower House when the bill was debated in July voted against it.

However, the bill passed 59 to 31 with the support of other MPs.

Seven Liberals in the Upper House have indicated they would oppose the bill when it comes to the floor.

This means about 60 per cent of the Liberal partyroom is against it.

The bill will return to the Upper House on September 17, where amendments will be debated.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who has overseen the bill, today confirmed he was working with Ms Davies and Mr Connolly on amendments.

He said he is committed to “striking the right balance” based on the advice of medical professionals and women’s groups.

Topics: government-and-politics, community-and-society, women, womens-health, health, nsw, sydney-2000

First posted September 04, 2019 14:21:32

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