The Victorian Liberal Party must present a united front to win the next state election, federal leader Peter Dutton has warned.
Mr Dutton issued the plea as rank-and-file members rubbed shoulders with senior leaders at a Liberal state council meeting in Melbourne.
An event in Bendigo in May was marred when dozens of Liberal members staged a walkout and heckled Victorian opposition leader John Pesutto, but there was no sign of unruly behaviour on Saturday.
“We need to present in a united way to the public of Victoria,” Mr Dutton told hundreds of party faithful.
“If we can do that with the talent we have adhering to our values as I say, standing up for our principles, then we can win the next state election, win it well and we can get Victoria back on track.”
The events in May were prompted by the expulsion of first-term MP Moira Deeming from the Liberals’ parliamentary team after she threatened Mr Pesutto with defamation action over comments regarding her participation in an anti-trans rally gatecrashed by neo-Nazis.
Before she was booted, Mr Dutton had flagged federal intervention in the party’s Victorian branch if the internal “mess” could not be resolved quickly.
Mr Pesutto and Ms Deeming were part of a three-hour mediation session earlier this month, but it failed to reach an outcome.
Former Victorian upper house Liberal MP Philip Davis was elected as the party’s next Victorian president on Saturday, triumphing over federal party vice-president Caroline Inge.
Former president Greg Mirabella stepped down after deciding to make a run for third spot on the Liberals’ Victorian Senate ticket at the next federal election.
Mr Mirabella, the husband of former Howard government minister Sophie Mirabella, was sworn in as a senator last year before losing out to United Australia Party’s Ralph Babet for the sixth and final seat in May.
The senior Liberal faced a call from Matthew Guy to resign after citing dislike for the former Victorian opposition leader as a factor in the coalition’s state election thumping in November.
Mr Guy, Deakin MP Michael Sukkar and other high-profile politicians were at the event on Saturday.
Ms Deeming also attended but was not scheduled to speak.