WESTERN Victoria Region Liberal Party members have told The Spectator that the “rank and file should have had a say” in preselecting the latest candidate for the state election.
The Liberal Party Victoria Division announced on Monday night that Ballarat Mayor, Joshua Morris, had been selected as the new candidate for the Western Victoria Region upper house state seat.
Some party members wanted the original preselection ballot results to stand and the 3rd place nominee to be declared the replacement for Aaron Lane.
Mr Lane resigned as a candidate earlier this month after The Australian newspaper connected him to inappropriate messages that were posted on the internet.
One prominent Western Victoria Region party member said it was “questionable” for the rank and file to be bypassed when “these people (running for Western Victoria and Hawthorn) are going into a safe seat and could be there for a decade”.
Western Victoria Region MP and number one candidate for re-election, Simon Ramsay said the complaints were “ridiculous” and he “hoped (The Spectator) was not being used by disgruntled supporters of Rod Nockles”.
The Spectator understands that Mr Nockles, a Surf Coast Shire councillor and former staffer to Prime Minister John Howard’s federal government, won third place in the earlier ballot.
A part member said it would have been the “logical” choice to select Mr Nockles because he had missed out on being a candidate by a handful of votes “not terribly long ago”.
Mr Ramsay said he believed Mr Nockles wanted a “count back” from the ballot “held some months ago” but it “was just not possible” under the party rules.
“If they have a complaint they should talk to the (Liberal Party Victoria Division) state director” Mr Ramsay said.
Mr Ramsay said it “was not my call” but the party did need a candidate “because the preselection nominations could have taken up to seven weeks and we have to face an election in 96 days”.
“There were 12 nominees (in the latest preselection) and they all had six minutes to speak and six minutes to answer questions,” Mr Ramsay said.
“The nominees all put forward a robust case for why they should be a candidate; the only difference was that it was decided by the admin committee.
“Mr Morris will make an excellent candidate and an excellent Member of Parliament”
One Liberal Party member said they understood the need for a timely new candidate in order “clean up the mess” left by Mr Lane’s departure.
“But (Mr Morris) can’t do that immediately because but he’s going on a 10-day jolly to China,” they said
“Not to mention still having the demand of being the mayor of a major regional city while
having to campaign full time for a seat that stretches from the South Australian border to the outskirts of Melbourne.”
Mr Ramsay said the dates for the Ballarat City Council trip to China for its councillors and chief executive “had already been decided”.
Mr Morris has confirmed via a statement that he has resigned as Ballarat Mayor and will leave the position on September 12.
“I’m honoured to have been chosen as the new Liberal Party candidate for the Upper House seat of Western Victoria,” Mr Morris said.
“As a husband and father of four children, I understand the challenges facing families, balancing the household budget and wanting the very best in community in which to raise your children.
“As part of Denis Napthine’s team I will be working hard to represent the views of the many communities across the Western Victoria Region.”