Mt Lawley meeting change angers opponents of Liberal plan to ignore Perth by-election

Liberal Senator Dean Smith.
Liberal Senator Dean Smith.

LIBERAL Party leadership appears to be digging in against opponents of their decision not to run a candidate at the Perth by-election.

Federal Liberal Senator Dean Smith, an opponent of the call to stay out of the race for Perth, was unable to get a Mount Lawley meeting about the issue that was rescheduled on Saturday.

State director Sam Calabrese said this morning that the meeting “was to help communicate the decision of the State Executive to their local grassroots membership”.

It was scheduled for 11.15am Saturday in the inner-city suburb, but emails sent the previous night pushed it back to 8am in West Perth.

The change left those who wished to challenge the decision irate, including Senator Smith – who was unable to attend because he was flying from Sydney at the time.

Not running a candidate in the seat has caused disquiet among supporters after the Liberals led with 42.3 per cent of the primary vote in the seat at the 2016 Federal Election.

There are questions about low campaign funds and whether giving up on a marginal-Labor seat foreshadows losing other slim-margin seats held by Liberals at the next Federal Election – due in less than 12 months.

Mr Calabrese said the decision was made to “focus our undivided attention” on a by-election for the State seat of Darling Range, left vacant by disgraced MLA Barry Urban.

The Perth by-election was caused when MHR Tim Hammond announced he was leaving politics for family reasons last month.

Mr Hammond has not yet resigned, meaning writs have not been issued setting a date for the poll.

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