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ONE-time New South Wales premier Nick Greiner is firming to become the next federal president of the Liberal Party.It is believed that businessman Greiner, 70, a moderate who was premier between 1988 and 1992, has the support of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the post.
The incoming president, replacing former Howard government minister Richard Alston, will take over a rundown, financially straitened organisation with a new party director – and one that is facing an extremely difficult election as early as next year.
Greiner’s business connections would be helpful in the urgent need for the strapped party to raise funds. Turnbull had to put A$1.75 million of his own money into the 2016 election campaign.
Earlier this year Greiner, in the context of the debate over penalty rates, urged Turnbull to be more forthright and take some risks. “There’s massive risk avoidance in politics and I think the public actually would quite like Malcolm to stand up for his view,” he said.
Other names that have been canvassed for the presidency are Western Australian Danielle Blain – who is a strong fundraiser and also very close to deputy leader Julie Bishop – and former Queensland Liberal National Party president Bruce McIver.
It is understood that McIver is not a potential candidate, although he may become a vice-president. Blain, who was burned by Tony Abbott when the then-prime minister insisted on Alston over her, would not want a fight.
Who will take over as the federal director – replacing veteran campaigner Tony Nutt – has become particularly fraught within the party.
Turnbull is close to 32-year-old Andrew Bragg, who comes from the prime minister’s electorate of Wentworth and is acting director while a recruitment process is underway. But party hardheads are deeply worried about Bragg’s lack of campaign experience.
Also being canvassed for the job are former Abbott adviser Andrew Hirst, Western Australian Liberal director Andrew Cox, former NSW director Mark Neeham, and Victorian director Simon Frost.
The new president will have a major say in who is chosen. While the June federal council formally elects the president, it would suit Turnbull to have Alston’s successor sorted out as soon as possible.