The NSW Liberals’ Pittwater branches have demanded the party’s powerful state council censure Treasurer Matt Kean for claiming members are out of touch after he was scathing of the preselection of a male “junior staffer” over the state’s most senior female Liberal.
Kean launched the broadside after former Mike Baird staffer Matt Cross won preselection for Davidson, the Liberals’ safest seat in NSW, over Roads Minister Natalie Ward.
His criticism also came ahead of the preselection for Pittwater, where local MP and Cities Minister Rob Stokes is retiring. Stokes and Kean wanted a female candidate for the seat, which is one under threat from teal independents, but the Pittwater state electoral conference endorsed a male.
Northern Beaches councilor Rory Amon was selected after Families Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones withdrew her nomination when it became clear she did not have enough factional support.
Another female, Claire Longley – the daughter of former Pittwater MP Jim Longley – also wanted to contest the preselection but an administrative issue with her party membership made her ineligible.
After Cross’ win, Kean said: “When you’ve got someone as talented, as able, and as big a contributor as Natalie Ward, who’s not able to win preselection over a former Liberal staffer, something’s wrong with our systems and processes. “
Premier Dominic Perrottet was also backing Ward, as he tries to increase the number of Liberal women in parliament, which has slipped to just 13.
The Pittwater conference this week moved a motion calling on the party to censure Kean for “asserting rank and file branch members are out of touch with their communities and cannot be trusted to select candidates in a democratic process”.
Its president Stu Cameron has also written to Kean, warning: “At present, the loudest voice speaking against the Liberal Party, its values and its membership is not the ALP, not the teals, and not the Greens. It is yours.”