Queensland Senator Gerard Rennick sues LNP after losing senate preselection

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Renegade LNP Senator Gerard Rennick has launched legal action against his own party after he was booted off the senate ticket during an internal party ballot.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, Nationals Leader David Littleproud and even Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner are among the prominent LNP figures named in Senator Rennick’s lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court in Brisbane several weeks ago.

A judge will now deliberate if Senator Rennick is entitled to appeal the preselection bid following a hearing on Friday.

Senator Rennick was first elected to the senate in 2019 and gained a reputation as an outspoken critic of the efficacy of vaccines during the Morrison government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senator Rennick lost his position on the LNP’s senate ticket during an internal ballot at the party’s state conference in Brisbane last July.

During Friday’s hearing, the court was told Senator Rennick stood for the third spot on the ticket and lost by just three votes to party treasurer Stuart Fraser.

Senator Rennick’s attempts to appeal the preselection were denied after the LNP State Council determined his appeal was not lodged within the statutory 60 day time frame.

“Much of the evidence relied upon by the senator paints a picture of a state council meeting which was run in an unprofessional manner,” Michael Stewart KC, representing Senator Rennick, said.

The court was told people eligible to vote for senators at State Council, under the party’s constitution, were usually given different coloured lanyards and those entitled to vote were “physically segregated”.

Mr Stewart said neither of these occurred on this occasion.

Reading from Senator Rennick’s affidavit, he said his client was given a voting paper by an LNP employee, despite the fact he was not eligible to vote.

“He properly rejected this,” Mr Stewart said.

Mr Rennick further alleges one person was ineligible to vote at the time of the ballot as she had not paid her party fees on time, but was still able to cast a vote in the ballot.

Senator Rennick – who was seated in the back of the court watching proceedings on Friday – is seeking declarations that he is entitled to appeal this ballot and his appeal was not lost by the expiration of time.

LNP director Ben Riley, president Lawrence Springborg, Mr Littleproud, Mr Schrinner, LNP state leader David Crisafulli, Mr Dutton and former federal Attorney-General George Brandis are among the respondents named in the lawsuit.

“It is our submission there’s a very strong case with contending with the appeal,” Mr Stewart said.

In his submissions, Mr Stewart said there was nothing in the LNP constitution which gave Senator Rennick the right of any further address.

“All he can do is what he was attempting to do in pursuing his appeal, which has been thwarted by the state executive,” Mr Stewart said.

Peter Dunning, representing the respondents, told the court the matter was not about a senate position and preselection.

“It’s about is there a time where a notice of appeal can be lodged and, if so, what is it?” He said.

Mr Dunning argued Senator Rennick’s application fails because the dispute was not justiciable in the Supreme Court.

“(It’s) no more, no less than what the internal rules can mean when it comes to your right of appeal,” he said.

“This controversy isn’t about preselection.”

Mr Dunning said Senator Rennick had also not “exhausted” any options for an internal review process with his party, including the possibility of seeking further directions from the State Council of the LNP.

“Having not done that, the court should not countenance this application,” he said.
Supreme Court Justice Glenn Martin is considering his decision.

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