CIVIL WAR: ‘Christian soldiers’ in fight for control of LNP

THE first real signs a civil war was brewing within the LNP became evident last year when about 100 unexpected faces turned up to the party's Metro West AGM to turf out then chair Leigh Warren.

Her backers were blindsided.

It happened again just days later at the party's Metro South AGM.

Many described it was the march of the "Christian soldiers", those within the party who want the LNP to lurch further to the right on issues like abortion, euthanasia and religious freedom.

Those on the other side of that battle, however, said it was more the "reasonable right" flexing its muscles with a little payback for the rolling of former Ryan MP Jane Prentice thrown in as well.

There was no denying, however, that new members had been flooding in off the back of the contentious abortion decriminalisation vote that just weeks earlier had set off a bomb inside the more conservative member of the LNP.

Steve Minnikin backed the abortion decriminalisation Bill.
Steve Minnikin backed the abortion decriminalisation Bill.

Three LNP MPs - Tim Nicholls, Steve Minnikin and Jann Stuckey - had used their conscience vote granted to them by their party room to back the Bill.

If they had voted against it, it would not have made a difference as Labor had the numbers.

But that did not matter to those baying for their political blood. And branch members started to pour in as soon as their votes were cast, allegedly with the intention of influencing their future preselections in punishment for their stance.

The internal rebellion had the party hierarchy spooked. They had all watched the religious right successfully gain influence within the Victorian Liberals by winning office-bearer roles to gain crucial votes on the party's powerful State Executive.

They did not want the same to happen here.

It was not until after this month's North Brisbane AGM on Monday, July 1, however, that they were moved to act.

It was standing room only at the meeting at the Aspley Hornets football club as more than 100 new faces once again flooded into the meeting to replace newly appointed Brisbane councillor Tracy Davis as chair.

Those on the other side were ready this time, however.

They too ensured everyone who could attend was on hand to support their preferred candidate for chair - Lilley candidate Brad Carswell.

Brad Carswell only just won the North Brisbane branch chairmanship ... by one vote.
Brad Carswell only just won the North Brisbane branch chairmanship ... by one vote.

Such was the influx of voters that the meeting was delayed 45 minutes. Mr Carswell eventually won by a single vote.

It was these scenes that LNP president David Hutchinson slammed as "unedifying" on Sunday as he successfully moved to change the rules to "protect the future of the party" and head off future stacks.

New members already have to wait 12 months before voting in a preselection.

Now they must also wait 12 months before voting for - or seeking election in - office-bearer elections as well.

"In recent months we have witnessed the unedifying spectacle at party unit AGMs where an influx of new members arrive to cast their vote - in some instances with text messages that direct them where to go and who to vote for - and then leave the meetings as soon as the ballot is over," Mr Hutchinson told Sunday afternoon's State Council meeting.

"I have lived in that (Metro North) region for 36 years.

"I have been a member of this party for almost 20.

"I had to introduce myself to the room as your acting president because I did not know almost half of the room.

LNP president David Hutchinson is leading the fightback for control of branches with a change to membership rules.
LNP president David Hutchinson is leading the fightback for control of branches with a change to membership rules.

"I had people come up to me and ask why they were not registered to be able to vote. The reason was that they hadn't had their membership approved. Yet they knew about the meeting and when they were asked how they found out about it, they were sent a text message.

"Let me be very clear, we welcome all new members to the LNP. But if you join our party you must share our values and join for the right reasons."

His rule change was heavily backed by party elders in the room. It also had the crucial support of Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington.

It was voted in with more than 70 per cent in support.

But while the party may have won the battle, they may not yet have won the war.

Those on the other side of the argument say this is not the end of the matter.

They strenuously reject the suggestion the new members are being recruited as part of a religious-right stack.

They argue the party has ostracised new members through the rule change and potentially awakened a sleeping giant.

"If they think these members will leave the party now, they are kidding themselves," a senior party member told The Courier-Mail.

"In discussions with many of those people, they are in for the long haul."

sarah.vogler@news.com.au