It just gets worse for PM as preselection spat heads for High Court

An application to challenge a decision in the lower courts over the preselection of NSW Liberal candidates will be heard by the High Court.

Apr 07, 2022, updated Apr 07, 2022
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)


The High Court will hear the special leave application by former Liberal Party member Matthew Camenzuli at 4pm on Friday.

As Scott Morrison continues to kick the date for the federal election down the road, his campaign has been rocked by more allegations of racial vilification, a fight with Queensland over flood funding and now a pub altercation with an angry pensioner.

Justice Stephen Gageler resolved to expedite the matter given a federal election is due to be called any day.

Lawyers for the parties must prepare applications and responses by 2.45pm on Friday, extending the long running stoush between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and members of the NSW Liberal branch.

The NSW Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected a legal challenge fronted by Mr Camenzuli, who sought to have the “purported” preselection of the MPs declared invalid.

Mr Camenzuli then lodged an application for leave to appeal the decision in the High Court.

The disability support pensioner laid into the prime minister at a Newcastle pub late on Wednesday night, chastising him for the level of support he’s provided older Australians.

The man yelled “Listen to me for a change” as he accused Morrison, who had dropped into the pub aiming for some impromptu campaigning, of failing to deliver on his election promises.

“This is what you said when you got elected last time. ‘We’re going help all those people that worked all their lives, paid their taxes,’” he said.

“I’ve had a go, mate, I’ve worked all my life and paid my taxes.

“You can have a million-dollar house, you can have $250,000 in the bank, you can have negative gearing and franking credits, but a disability pensioner can’t have any income.”

As speculation mounts on when he will call the election, the prime minister said it would be done soon.

“The election will be called when I’m in a position to go to the governor-general,” he said.

“It’s almost three years … from the last election. I said we would run a term, do the job, and go to the Australian people.”

On another front, Morrison has been unable to move on from a racial row sparked by his handling of NSW Liberal Party preselections.

He has repeatedly denied claims he racially profiled a fellow candidate for the Sydney seat of Cook during a 2007 pre-selection battle.

But the man he ousted, Michael Towke, tells a different story.

In a televised interview, he said Morrison was at the heart of a smear campaign against him in 2007, and members of the Liberal Party pressured him to withdraw from the pre-selection, threatening to “ruin him” and his employability if he didn’t.

“At the time (Morrison) was desperate and it suited him to play the race card,” Towke told Network Ten’s The Project on Wednesday.

“I don’t like saying he is a racist, I don’t know him well enough. But he has certainly used racism, Islamophobia, bigotry, with refugees … with migration policies, and he’s been dumped on by his own side.”

Towke said a current cabinet minister recently sent him a message of support.

“I’ve got text messages from a cabinet minister telling me ‘I believe you and do what you need to do, just be careful’,” he said.

Towke also claimed he did not know the preselection story would be aired in parliament by outgoing Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells on budget night.

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“I have moved on, but the more that this is unfolding and watching the prime minister’s very non-credible responses, I’ve chosen to not remain silent anymore,” he said.

He also categorically rejected the idea of entering politics again.

“I have no interest in ever going to that sausage factory, or cesspool which is getting worse by the day, ever again,” he said.

Meanwhile, two female Liberal MPs from NSW have backed Morrison after Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells characterised him as a bully who was not fit to be prime minister.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley and MP Melissa McIntosh said the attacks against the prime minister were untrue.

Ley said the “political pile on” could not be further from reality.

Morrison has also been under fire for disregarding the party’s NSW executive to install his own candidates in the state, but says his actions were to protect female MPs whose preselections were at risk.

Ley, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and backbencher Trent Zimmerman were spared by the prime minister’s actions.

The NSW Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected a legal challenge fronted by Sydney businessman Matthew Camenzuli, who sought to have the “purported” preselection of the MPs by a panel including Morrison declared invalid.

However, Camenzuli on Wednesday lodged an application for leave to appeal that decision in the High Court.

McIntosh on Wednesday revealed her pre-selection for the seat of Lindsay was also under threat, but the prime minister stepped in.

“I can no longer abide the nonsense being peddled in the public domain about the prime minister,” McIntosh said.

“(Morrison) listened to me, advised me, and fought hard for me to defeat the challenge and stick with politics.”

Morrison is due to call an election within days.

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