Updated | Controversial move to parachute outsider into Hughes as Liberal candidate unresolved after crucial meeting

Alex Dore could be imposed as the Liberal candidate for Hughes.

Alex Dore could be imposed as the Liberal candidate for Hughes.


The possibility of Manly resident Alex Dore being imposed as the Liberal Party candidate for Hughes remains after a crucial meeting of the party's state executive on Friday night.

An electronic vote will be held after faction leaders revisit a controversial deal involving several preselections, which was to have been put to the meeting.

Branch members in Hughes are outraged by the move to parachute in Mr Dore, 31, a former Young Liberals president, who is a member of the state executive.

Mr Dore did not nominate for preselection.

The move would require 90 per cent support from the 27-member state executive and Mr Dore would not be allowed to vote.

Party sources said, because of a number of sticking points, no motion on the proposed deal was put to last night's meeting.

However, the meeting did agree to begin the process of reviewing existing nominations, which needs to be completed in two weeks.

The NSW branch risks intervention by the party's federal body if it can't resolve the situation.


Liberal Party members in Hughes are outraged by a move to parachute in a member of the party's state executive, who lives in Manly, as their candidate to take on Craig Kelly in the federal election.

The proposal to impose management consultant Alex Dore without a rank-and-file ballot is part of an agreement between the factions to solve preselection issues in several seats and is being encouraged by people within the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The backroom deal will be put to a meeting of the state executive tonight (Friday January 28).

The Liberal candidate for Hughes was expected to be a local, either Holsworthy MP Melanie Gibbons, who received glowing praise from Mr Morrison, or lawyer Jenny Ware. There is a third local candidate, Alex Cook.

Melanie Gibbons.

Melanie Gibbons.

Mr Dore did not nominate and has never lived in the electorate.

For some shire Liberals, the idea of an outsider being imposed is bad enough, but for him to be a Manly resident is worse.

"Us Sharks supporters have long memories," said a senior member.

Another senior shire Liberal said, "This is an outrageous decision made by six men, two from each of the three factions".

"There are two capable women candidates from the area, yet this group of men did a deal to bring in a man who has no connection to Hughes and was previously looking at contesting preselection in Warringah."

President of the Liberal Party's Hughes Federal Electorate Conference (FEC) John Riad blasted the move in a letter on January 26 to state executive members.

"Since news of this proposal broke out, the conference executive has been inundated with calls and messages from our local branch members that have voiced their objections," Mr Riad wrote in the letter obtained by the Leader.

"Members have asked that we communicate their strong disapproval to state executive.

"Our members are among the most loyal and strongest supporters of the Liberal Party.

"We regularly volunteer our time and efforts, make financial contributions, and support our candidates during campaigns.

"The Hughes FEC has not had a preselection or given the free will to select their member without external interference since 2010."

Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison intervened on separate occasions to save Craig Kelly, who later quit the Liberals and became leader of the Australia United Party.

Mr Riad's letter continued, "The FEC has shown tolerance being overruled for over a decade for the greater good of the country, the coalition government, and for the Liberal Party.

Jenny Ware.

Jenny Ware.

"However, we can no longer accept the membership not being given a chance (again) to participate in the preselection process without interfering with their democratic rights as liberal party members.

"The Constitution sets out a democratic and open process for selecting candidates. An attempt to impose a candidate without a preselection extinguishes the democratic rights of Liberal Party members, which are provided for under the constitution.

"We believe that the proposition is draconic, unreasonable, and abandoned to the members that have served the party that has sacrificed so much over the last twelve (12) years.

"For the avoidance of ambiguity, the executive of Hughes is not writing about particular individuals; it is dissenting about the process being imposed.

"Given the unique circumstances, the deprivation of members' rights will have detrimental consequences for the Liberal Party in Hughes.

"I kindly remind the members of the state executive that they themselves have their democratic process to be elected, and we seek the same for our local member.

"We urge you to reject this proposal and stand with our members. Hughes must have a preselection that is in line with the constitution."

Other senior shire Liberals said, if the deal went ahead, Labor was likely to win Hughes.

Asked whether branch members would get behind Mr Dore, a branch president said, "Probably not. I think a lot of people would probably say, 'We have had enough of this, see you later'."

Mr Dore declined to comment.

Mr Dore, who is 31 and single, has long been seen as having a bright future within the party.

He is a former president of the Young Liberals and, when he was just 19, stood against present Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Grayndler.

Mr Dore grew up at Carss Park and has lived in Manly for about five years. He works in the management consulting team at PwC Australia.

During another preselection tilt, Mr Morrison, who was a senior Opposition frontbencher at the time, provided a glowing reference for Mr Dore.

"In Alex, I believe we have someone of real quality", Mr Morrison wrote.

"As a former state director, I've seen a lot of campaigns. Alex's effort in Grayndler was outstanding and demonstrates he has what it takes to fight and win a marginal seat.

"Stepping up in a safe, inner-west Labor seat takes courage and commitment, but Alex was undaunted. He ran a very effective campaign that caused heartburn for a senior Labor minister."

A Liberal source, who believes the proposal has merit, said Mr Dore was "not trying to push his way into Hughes" and "he certainly doesn't have a sense of entitlement".

"There are Hughes locals and people in the Prime Minister's Office who have encouraged him," the source said.

The source said Mr Dore belonged to the moderates faction, but this was denied by other members of that faction, who said he was aligned to the hard right faction.

The source also rubbished claims Mr Dore was "an acolyte" of former prime minister Tony Abbott and broadcaster Alan Jones, but others said he was very close to both.

We are Hughes independent candidate Linda Seymour said the move "by Liberal powerbrokers shows once again Hughes is being taken for granted".

Linda Seymour.

Linda Seymour.

"I am dismayed, but equally, I am not surprised," she said.

"This is the same pattern that delivered Craig Kelly to Hughes. Overriding local branch wishes because of political games played out far away from our electorate.

"The view is we are such a safe seat that anyone will be elected simply because they are Liberal. This is contemptible regard for our citizens that shows they take our votes for granted."

Ms Seymour said it was "time for constructive politics".

"That is my pledge, constructive, politics in consultation with constituents," she said. "That is how democracy was designed to work, and it can work again if we vote for the person and not the party."

Georgia Steele. Picture: Chris Lane

Georgia Steele. Picture: Chris Lane

Independent candidate for Hughes, Georgia Steele, said, "The people of Hughes have been taken for granted by the Liberal Party for more than a decade".

"Craig Kelly was a captain's pick - not even his own branch thought he was the best person for the job," she said .

"It is absolutely critical that anyone seeking the honour of representing Hughes actually understands the people who live here and the issues they face.

"If the Liberals are in fact considering a candidate who doesn't live in Hughes, it's further proof that they care more about the party than they do about the voters. Hughes deserves an MP who is truly representative, one who has deep roots in the community, who can advocate in Canberra with compassion, experience and local knowledge.

"One of the reasons I am standing up as an Independent is because I see how little respect the Liberal Party has for the people of Hughes. Enough is enough. We deserve a fresh start and real representation, instead of more party machinations."

This story Updated | Libs in turmoil over Hughes candidate first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.