The president of the Queensland Liberal National party women’s branch has emailed fellow officials to warn of a “culture of anger and mistrust”, amid an increasingly fraught fallout from the party’s state election loss.
The LNP’s governing state executive met last week to begin the process of a broad strategic review, including attempting to define “what the party stands for”.
Guardian Australia has obtained an email sent to members of the state executive by the head of LNP Women, Jenny Goodwin, soon after the meeting concluded.
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In the email Goodwin said she had been unable to have questions answered or to raise concerns – which are longstanding among disparate sections of the party’s membership – about its disciplinary process.
She said the party is “grossly overreaching on their own fundamental philosophy” by forcing members to answer for actions taken as private citizens.
“As the LNP Women president, I take the wellbeing and treatment of our women very seriously,” Goodwin said.
“I seriously believe that these questions need to be answered as my time in the party, and particularly on the state executive, has shown me that this [discipline] process causes much anxiety and contributes to a culture of anger and mistrust, as well as the accusation of bullying.
“We need to have clear reasons as to why our members are brought before disputes committees.”
Guardian Australia wrote in July about concerns a “star chamber” was being used to fortify the power of certain officials – including intense review meetings for potential candidates and secretive disciplinary sessions where members are required to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Multiple women in the LNP have privately raised concerns about the nature of questioning and language used during these vetting and discipline sessions.
LNP members with knowledge of Friday’s state executive meeting said Goodwin sought to raise the matter of the LNP Women vice-president, Marilyn Wilson, who has been referred to the party’s disputes committee for participating in a Sky News debate audience of “undecided voters”.
Both Goodwin and Wilson are considered part of the party’s Christian right, a large and growing grassroots segment of the party, some of whose members are among the most aggrieved at the alleged actions of existing powerbrokers.
Goodwin’s son David – an influential figure among the grouping – is suing the LNP for defamation after his party membership was suspended in May 2019 in relation to allegations of branch stacking, which were subsequently retracted by party officials.
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In her email, Jenny Goodwin said the LNP “has no right to judge the private actions of any of its members”.
“The LNP cannot censor a member when they act as a private citizen. The LNP as a political party would be grossly overreaching on their own fundamental philosophy in questioning members’ actions when they act as private citizens and with good intentions.
“Does our constitution allow for members to be referred and investigated if they have not done anything illegal, unjust, unkind or corrupt?
“As a party should we not have conditions and caveats around complaints brought by members against other members?”
The party’s strategic review was prompted by its Queensland election loss in October. Labor has now won 11 of the past 12 elections in a state poll.
However, many party members – including progressives and conservatives – are understood to be agitating for a separate process. A state council meeting is being planned for next year, for the purpose of countering the influence group referred to as “the cabal”, including those linked to the mining magnate Clive Palmer, and others blamed for strategic mistakes.
Guardian Australia offered the LNP the opportunity to comment.