Abbott stays out of Slipper row

FEDERAL Opposition leader Tony Abbott has refused to buy into the stoush embroiling the party's Fisher division and Deputy Speaker Peter Slipper.

Mr Abbot failed yesterday to answer a series of questions about the overthrow of Mr Slipper's preferred ticket for the Fisher LNP branch executive, and his own involvement.

Mr Slipper has twice referred to Mr Abbott in relation to machinations around last Saturday's vote of the LNP Fisher federal divisional council which elected Mal Brough as executive chairman.

Last Friday in a letter to LNP members, Mr Slipper claimed that he had spoken to Mr Abbott about the Brough ticket.

And on the ABC's Coast FM yesterday, he claimed "it's my view that the running by Mr Brough as the FDC chairman was not a course of action favoured by the Leader of the Opposition";.

Mr Abbott avoided answering questions about those claims, saying only that "these decisions are rightly the preserve of the LNP membership";.

Nor did he take up the invitation to offer his interpretation of Mr Slipper's letter to party members on Friday, which said in part: "if the coup is successful my position as a parliamentary member of the LNP becomes untenable.

"This would not be helpful to the Coalition in a hung parliament where every vote counts";.

The LNP's state president, Bruce McIver, said the decision to back Mal Brough over the ticket of Mr Slipper showed that the grassroots members drove the LNP.

Mr McIver, who lives in the electorate, chaired the controversial Fisher federal divisional council meeting on Saturday at which Mr Slipper's candidate was beaten 201 to 69.

He said under the LNP's constitution members had the right to select a chairman and executive and would have the right - closer to the next federal election - to decide who stood for the party in each seat.

"Saturday's result shows that the grassroots members of this party drive the party from the bottom up," Mr McIver said.

"It doesn't happen from the top down. I've pushed for that since the LNP was formed."

Mr Slipper claimed Mr Brough's victory was the result of a "coup".

He claimed the result could have been foreseen because of the large numbers of new members that had been attracted to the party by Mr Brough and his supporters.

Mr Brough said that he had told Saturday's party meeting he would work with all state and federal members.

But he said his position gave him no authority to discipline Mr Slipper or question him about his use of parliamentary expenditure entitlements, an issue now impacting negatively on the party's state election campaign.

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