A bitter round of Victorian Liberal Party preselections are gearing into action and the focus will shift to shadow Police Minister Kim Wells in Scoresby this Thursday where an almight bunfight is expected as he attempts to shore up his preselection at the electorate council AGM.

Scoresby was once the safe Liberal seat of Wantirna. After falling backwards into the seat in 1992 on top of the Kennett election landslide, Wells has followed a state-wide trend and seen his 14 per cent margin whittled down to a meagre 3 per cent.

Pre-selection rumours started 12 months ago after a flawless coup on the Scoresby Electorate Council. Riding on the back of widespread dissatisfaction with the SEC’s performance, and the fact that Wells was opposed to having council meetings, the locals turfed out the incumbents by margins of over two-to-one.

After quickly changing his pants, Wells transferred his membership into the Scoresby electorate to commence shoring up his position. Wells chose the previously tranquil Scoresby branch which has managed to avoid contested elections for more than 5 years.

Upon stumbling onto the scene, Wells commenced his destabilisation campaign against the broadly supported incumbents. After realising quickly that public support was against him and any attempted coup, Wells began his own recruitment drive to ‘reinvigorate’ the ageing branch. Wells poured in over 20 people sourcing supporters as far away as Dromana and Canberra to make up the numbers he needed to win. Wells also tried heavying branch members on the phone.

Due to swelling membership numbers, the branch’s AGM was delayed until February this year. The AGM was like nothing the branch had ever experienced. During the four bunfight, Wells and fellow Liberal MP Bruce Atkinson did their best to bring down the incumbents.

By double teaming against the incumbents, both Atkinson and Wells managed to deny the branch membership the right to hear candidates speeches and constantly interrupted the branch president and other incumbents when they were providing their annual reports.

When the branch finally got around to choosing a Chairman for the branch’s elections, Atkinson nominated against the Kroger factions preferred candidate. Upon pressuring that candidate out, Atkinson began publicly advocating candidates ahead of others, and disregarding the meeting agenda by changing the order to suit the challengers pre-determined strategy.

Atkinson’s actions have made Kroger forces furious and he now joins other local turncoat Chris Pearce in the penalty box. For their credit though, it is now understood that in recent days, both Pearce and Atkinson are attempting to distance themselves from Wells as the AGM results were a damaging blow.

Despite having the support of Federal Member Chris Pearce, State Member Bruce Atkinson and party leader Robert Doyle, Well’s failed to change the leadership of the branch or secure the crucial delegates he needed to retake his own electorate council. Michael Gidley, the incumbent President of the branch, defeated Wells’ chosen challenger, Alan Mortimer

After the messy battle was over, the Wells coup had only secured a few extra positions on the branch executive and only two of the four Scoresby delegate spots he needed.

What does this mean? With his local branches in open rebellion, the parliamentary party sniffing weakness and his own electorate council dissapointed with his lack of support, Wells and his humble little electorate of Scoresby now appear to be ground zero in the factional battles which are about to erupt in the upcoming round of pre-selections.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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