Peter Dutton hits out at embattled NSW Liberal branch as he proposes pension plan to help labour shortage

Peter Dutton has taken aim at the NSW Liberal branch and lashed the 11th hour pre-selections as “completely unacceptable” as he attempts to rebuild from the party’s massive election defeat.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has doubled down on his criticism of the NSW Liberal Party branch after fronting a meeting of the state executive on Friday night.

At the meeting, Mr Dutton urged the party to recover from the mistakes of the last election, arguing NSW was key for the Liberals to return to government.

The new Opposition Leader told reporters on Sunday he had a “very clear” message for the state branch.

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“New South Wales is a crucial state for us, we need to win seats to win the next election,” he said in his Queensland seat of Dickson.

“We have to get our act together in NSW and that’s important for the re-election of the Perrottet government as well.”

The state executive was embroiled in controversy after it delayed confirming candidates for the election in May until days before the campaign began.

Then-prime minister Scott Morrison and his representative on the state executive Alex Hawke were accused of deferring the pre-selection process to install their own handpicked candidates.

The move paid off, and the pair secured pre-selection of existing MPs – like Mr Hawke – while installing a raft of candidates in seats across the state.

While vowing not to intervene in state party branch again, Mr Dutton hit out at the executive for its handling of the issue.

“I was very clear in my advice to the NSW division that it’s completely unacceptable to be pre-selecting candidates on the eve of an election,” he continued.

“I want those candidates to be pre-selected earlier so they can be out in the community listening to their constituents.”

As the federal Liberal leader, Mr Dutton is entitled to a representative on the state executive, but he has not yet confirmed his pick.

The Opposition Leader also unveiled his first key policy proposal – urging the Albanese Government to lift the earning threshold for pensioners to help alleviate the ongoing labour shortage.

Mr Dutton said the “quickest way” to address the immediate need for workers in sectors across the country was to tap into older Australians who want to work more.

“This is about those who want to work and do an extra day or two for them to be able to work and for it not to affect their pension,” he said.

Pensioners are only able to earn about $300 a fortnight before their government allowance begins to taper off.

Under the Coalition’s plan, the threshold would be lifted to $600, which Mr Dutton said equated to an additional day or two of work.

Treasury has costed the policy at about $112 million a year, according to the Liberal leader who said it would be reviewed every 12 months.

“I really think it’s a policy that the Albanese Government should pick up because the economy demands it now.”

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