New South Wales Liberal heavies are
expected to make a decision over the weekend that could be crucial to shaping
the outcome of the preselection in the seat of Epping, a closing date for
nominations.

At stake are delegateships from the
Cherrybrook Branch, the source of around half the local delegates to the
preselection college.

Cherrybrook has been ruthlessly stacked by
Lebanese Maronite Christians. It is a stronghold of the right. There is
considerable discord over the size of the branch – and the status and
commitment of many of its members.

Memberships are currently due. It will take
time for branch members to become unfinancial. That means the date of closing
of nominations becomes an issue, as delegate entitlements are determined on the
basis of membership figures three months before the closing of nominations.

A large number of Cherrybrook members
reportedly became unfinancial in the current NSW Liberal Party membership year,
but have been able to regain their voting rights by recently coughing up the
fees.

Crikey understands that a number of
possible contenders for Epping are waiting for a decision before they decide to
throw their hats into the ring.

The question of the power and influence of
the religious right in the NSW Liberals is already widely discussed. It’s now
taking on a new aspect – being considered as part of the Howard legacy, even by
supporters. Making the party unelectable? Dividing it? Is that what the PM
wants to be remembered for?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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