Chaos engulfing the Liberals deepens
Just when you thought it couldn't get worse for the Morrison government, another federal Liberal MP is getting ready to walk.
Craig Kelly is reportedly considering quitting the party and running as an independent because he fears losing preselection to recontest his Sydney seat.
He indicated leaving the Liberal party is "a future possibility".
"I'm still very hopeful in a preselection contest," he told Fairfax Media. "My 100 per cent concentration is on my job which is to represent my electorate until the end of this term."
Mr Kelly, who is a member of the Liberal right, is the MP for Hughes in Sydney's south and was one the party members who backed the successful push to oust sitting prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in August.
This has caused an upset among the Liberal members of the Hughes branch, where the moderate wing is now believed to have the numbers to deny Mr Kelly preselection.
Mr Kelly was spotted in the press gallery corridors this morning, wearing a T-shirt with Robert Menzies' face on it, as he downplayed the speculation about his future.
"Showing where my true loyalties lie," he said.
Mr Menzies, of course, was the founder of the Liberal Party and Australia's longest serving prime minister.
Mr Kelly was en route to an interview with Radio National, where he was a little less ambiguous about his intentions.
"I have a contract with the people of Hughes. When I put my name on the ballot paper last year as a Liberal member, I entered a contract to serve Hughes for this term as a Liberal member," Mr Kelly said.
"I certainly won't be defecting from the Liberal Party. I am proud to have Scott Morrison as the Prime Minister of this country."
The suggestion is that Mr Kelly fears losing his preselection battle and could quit the party if that happens.
But this morning he said he "absolutely" expects to be preselected.
"I actually welcome a preselection contest," he told Fran Kelly.
"I think it's good that we all have to put our records on the line."
Pressed further, he again insisted he had no plans to join the crossbench.
"I haven't considered that. The other options are to go and coach the Wallabies, given their performance at the moment. Another option is go and be a Tibetan monk and join a monastery."
Former Liberal Party presidential candidate John Ruddick has encouraged Mr Kelly to make the move.
"It is true that people have been ringing me following the demotion of senator Jim Molan and urging me to quit now and sit as a conservative independent," Mr Kelly told The Australian.
"However, I have a contract with the electors of Hughes who voted me in and gave me the opportunity to represent them in Canberra.
"I'm looking forward to the preselection contest to put my record and achievements - including the fact that I've moved my seat more places up the electoral pendulum than any other Liberal MP in the country - to the NSW Liberal Party to seek their endorsement to contest the seat of Hughes in the upcoming election as the Liberal candidate".
He ultimately said he would resist the calls to switch to the crossbench in the hope of winning Liberal preselection, but would keep his options open.
The Liberals have reportedly been bracing for further internal division following Julia Banks' abrupt resignation earlier this week, with some MPs fearing there is "more to come".
The federal member for Chisholm released a scathing statement outlining her "treacherous" resignation from the embattled party on Tuesday.
She said had reflected on the coup that saw Malcolm Turnbull toppled from the prime ministership and which had been led by members of the "reactionary right wing".
"The coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence," she said.
"Their actions were undeniably for themselves. For their position in the Party. Their power. Their personal ambition. Not for the Australian people who we represent. Not for what people voted for in the 2016 election."
Ms Banks said the aftermath of the leadership spill laid bare the major parties' "obstructionist and combative actions".
"All for political point scoring rather than for timely, practical sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about."
The Victorian MP also took aim at the Liberals' "women problem", saying the level of regard and respect for women in politics across both major parties was years behind the business world.
"There is also a clear need for an independent and whistleblower system as found in many workplaces to enable reporting of misconduct of those in power without the fear of reprisal or retribution," she said.