New Victorian Liberal president calls out treachery, disunity

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Former Victorian Liberal MP Philip Davis will take over as the party’s state president, vowing to dig the party out of a hole and root out treachery and disunity.

Speaking following his election on Saturday at the state council meeting at Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne, Davis said he was humbled to receive the support of delegates.

Philip Davis arriving at the state council meeting at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Saturday.Credit: Simon Schluter

“The party has been in a very difficult place for a long time, and I’m committed to working with all of you to dig us out of the hole,” he said.

Davis urged members to respect one another and slammed those leaking to journalists of “treachery”.

“This division, it seems, more than any other division, has been riven by disunity in recent times.”

Davis’s election will be a relief to Opposition Leader John Pesutto.

Contender Caroline Inge – the Liberal Party’s federal vice-president and a former staffer, friend and ally of Tim Smith – had campaigned on withholding party funds for the leadership team to defend defamation proceedings.

“Under my leadership, every possible resource will be used to campaign and win elections, not to fund the private legal expenses of our parliamentary representatives,” Inge said in a bio statement circulated to members ahead of the vote.

Liberal Party headquarters had never shown a willingness to indemnify Pesutto or senior MPs David Southwick, Georgie Crozier and Matt Bach to defend defamation threats from exiled MP Moira Deeming.

But the parliamentary party last month voted to advocate for some financial support.

The position of state president was forced to a vote when both Davis and Inge nominated to replace Greg Mirabella, who in August announced he would resign to seek to return to the Senate.

Greg Mirabella announced he would resign as Victorian Liberal Party president in August.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

In a statement circulated to members ahead of state council, Davis said the Victorian party had a “monumental task” ahead of it.

“It is now time for us to work together to renew the party organisation and the parliamentary wing. Commentating from the couch is not acceptable for true Liberals who see the failings and poor performance of state and federal governments,” Davis said.

“The apathy of the Victorian electorate to the most dictatorial leader in the state’s history calls for an urgent response.”

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