Abbott forces win Liberal reform bid

Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer
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Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott at the NSW Liberals convention, which will vote on party reform.

Conservative Liberals in NSW have dealt a blow to the dominance of moderates, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, by endorsing reforms championed by Tony Abbott.

A special party futures convention in Sydney on Sunday backed the so-called Warringah motions allowing, for the first time, candidates for state and federal seats and positions on key internal bodies, such as the state executive, to be selected by grassroots member plebiscites.

Mr Abbott has described the reforms as "true democracy" versus the "fake democracy" proposed by the party's moderate and soft right factions.

It's expected sitting MPs would also be open to preselection challenge.

Former MP Ross Cameron said the vote on the first motion for candidate plebiscites was 748-476, or 61 per cent, while the second motion on executive and other positions was 769-423, or 71 per cent.

There was a minor hitch at the convention when the electronic voting system went down for almost half an hour, which meant the votes of just over 1200 members had to be cast again.

Some members were allowed to vote manually if they did not have electronic devices.

A how-to-vote card issued by the Warringah motion backers called on members to vote "yes" only to the two motions, and "no" to the dozens of others on the program.

"Stop the factions, stop the stacking, take control of your party," the card read.

Key proponent, retired major general Jim Molan, received loud applause in moving the motions.

Prior to the convention, concerns were aired in the media of the Warringah group stacking the meeting by paying the attendance fees of dozens of members and providing transport.

They also spent thousands of dollars on a smart phone app similar to that used by the conservative Republican splinter group, the Tea Party, in the United States.

Mr Turnbull, who has been a supporter of plebiscites since they were proposed in a 2002 party review, said in a speech at the opening of the convention the change was not only "politically right, it is right morally".

"We must ensure that every member of our party has a say in preselections, in every measure, every step of our party's processes," he said

But he declined to speak in favour of a particular motion and was not at the convention on Sunday.