Liberals urged to give Morrison clear air

·3-min read

Liberal Party members have been told to avoid distracting from the Morrison government's message ahead of its bid for re-election.

Liberal president John Olsen told the 250-strong party federal council in Canberra on Friday a lack of discipline had cost the party several seats at the 2019 election, despite the government being returned.

"We must enable them (the government) to have clear air and no distraction over the next year," he said.

"No one should compromise that approach ... and that requires discipline."

Mr Olsen, who was re-elected unopposed as party president, said "odds were against" the party in terms of its ability to raise similar levels of funding to Labor and the unions.

"Our task is significant," he said.

The key to re-election, the former premier of South Australia said, would be to promote the government's success in dealing with the economic and health impacts of the pandemic.

'What we need to do is ensure it is recognised nationally in Australia and that is reflected in the ballot box," he said.

The meeting, which Scott Morrison will address on Saturday, comes as the prime minister weighs up the best timing for the next federal election.

The lower house and half-Senate election could be as close as August 7, or Mr Morrison could wait until as late as May 21, 2022.

Mr Morrison told a coalition party room meeting this week there was still a year until the next election and there was a lot more work to be done before it.

The party still has a long way to go to preselect candidates, with the key state of NSW currently vetting nominees ahead of a series of local plebiscites which could see some sitting federal MPs ousted.

However, the prime minister has made it widely known he wants existing MPs supported.

The local plebiscite rule now in place in NSW was championed by former prime minister Tony Abbott, who wanted rank-and-file members to have a stronger voice.

The election is expected to be focused on about two dozen marginal and target seats across the country.

The prime minister told coalition MPs this week there was a "natural alliance" between the values of the Liberal-National coalition and what people in the suburbs and regions believed.

Since the pandemic began, voters have returned four state and territory Labor governments, and the Tasmanian Liberal government of Peter Gutwein.

The council endorsed motions calling for voters to show ID at polling booths in order to cast a ballot, and for the pre-poll voting period to be shortened to two weeks in a bid to ensure voters are properly informed during the campaign.

It also backed a motion calling for the federal government to "continue to support peace initiatives between Israel and the Palestinian leadership through the path of negotiations and diplomacy and to disavow any push towards the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state".

It will provide a contrast to the Labor Party which this year backed the recognition of a Palestinian state and committed to a two-state solution with Israel.

Delegates were welcomed to the meeting by ACT Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee, the nation's first Asian-Australian major party leader.

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