Richmond Liberals left in the dark

By Alex Easton

RICHMOND Liberal Party members did not learn of their party's plan to stand a candidate in the seat until they read about it in The Northern Star this week.

Lennox Head-based NSW Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack yesterday said she had queried the party's state director, Graham Jaeschke, and state president, Geoff Selig, in a bid to learn if stories about the preselection were true.

"No-one in the Byron Bay Liberals or myself were informed we were running a candidate in Richmond. I'm also concerned it's all being left very late and am puzzled about reading this in the paper," she said There had been discussion some time ago about the idea of standing a candidate, but branch members had urged the party executive to get someone in early if it wanted to go that way.

The decision on whether to run a candidate, and who that would be, was up to the executive and announced by the party's director or president.

Neither Ms Cusack nor any other local Liberals were able to suggest who might nominate for preselection.

Richmond Nationals candidate Dr Sue Page said the Liberals' decision offered conservative voters more choice.

Another local senior Liberal, former MLC Dr Brian Pezzutti, said the decision would help the Coalition win Richmond.

Dr Pezzutti pointed to the Liberals for Forests scandal in the 2004 election, which delivered the final few hundred preferences needed for Labor candidate Justine Elliot to win, saying a similar vote, with preferences flowing to the Nationals, would help Dr Page.

The 2004 poll had shown there were Liberal voters in Richmond he said, addingthe party was standing in Richmond because it believed it could win.

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