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Western Australia: Liberal Party announces the establishment of a committee to review constitutional issues of the party

ELLEN FANNING: A review of the West Australian Liberal Party will not be completed before the next Federal election, but the work of a special committee is the first indication that the party is taking concrete action to deal with allegations of branch stacking and complaints about preselection and disciplinary measures. The announcement of the committee to review the party's constitution followed the first meeting of WA Federal Liberal MPs in five years. That it's been so long since all the members gathered together, illustrates the deep long-term divisions within the State party. Dr David Honey, the party's President, has also imposed a deadline on powerbroker, Senator Noel Crichton-Brown. He has until next Wednesday to resign.

John McNamara asked David Honey who will choose the members of the committee.

DAVID HONEY: I will. It will be a president's committee, however, it will be a committee that has the support of the great majority of our members and supporters.

JOHN MCNAMARA: So you'll be seeking people from all the different groups within the party?

DAVID HONEY: Well, not so much people who have an intimate association with the day to day running of the organisation, more a group of people who have an association with the party, but perhaps in fact who are some little distance from it, so that they can sit back, take in submissions from all the various interested parties and then come forward with recommendations and test those recommendations around the organisation.

JOHN MCNAMARA:What needs to be fixed within the Liberal Party in Western Australia?

DAVID HONEY: Clearly matters in relation to preselections, membership of branches and other matters such as disciplinary proceedings and there are other constitutional issues which people wish to consider. People will have the opportunity to come forward with recommendations on those various matters and then, I believe, that through a consensual process that committee will come forward with recommendations to a conference.

JOHN MCNAMARA: This is going to take a long time, though, isn't it? It won't happen before the next Federal election?

DAVID HONEY: No, and neither should it. Look, changing a constitution is a major undertaking and it's not something that should be rushed. The interests of the party are unlikely to be served by public positioning over constitutional changes before the Federal election. It's important that members are aware that a process of change is under way. Equally, I think, the great majority of members will accept that we need to progress reaching some agreement as to the changes that need to be made, but in fact we must not distract the resources of the party from the forthcoming Federal election.

JOHN MCNAMARA: Is this an acknowledgment by you that the damage that's been done to the party was almost on the stage of being irreparable?

DAVID HONEY: Well, clearly there's been damage done to the party over a number of matters. There are a number of issues, including issues surrounding Senator Crichton-Browne, which have caused harm to the party and it would be irresponsible not to address those issues and not to deal with people's concerns. Now, I might say I believe that the party itself has undergone quite a remarkable change since conference. There is an overwhelming view within the organisation that people must accommodate each others views and that certain changes need to be made and, as I repeat, in fact I have been surprised at the degree of unanimity of views on a number of issues.

JOHN MCNAMARA: You mentioned Senator Crichton-Browne, you've written him saying: 'Resign from the party.' Has he responded yet?

DAVID HONEY: I am not going to fuel up a public debate on this matter leading up to the executive meeting, but equally, this will be dealt with .. this matter will be dealt with before next Wednesday. I am hopeful that the Senator will resign and I think that's the best outcome for him and the party. But otherwise, the executive will deal with this matter and I will report on it when the executive have dealt with it. I don't think there is anything to be served, I don't think any cause is served by publicly speculating about what might or might not happen. However, members and supporters don't have long to wait in seeing what action the executive will take on it.

ELLEN FANNING:Dr David Honey.