Controversial NSW Liberal David Clarke has survived a preselection challenge from a candidate backed by self-styled ‘progressive-conservatives’ within the Liberal Party.

Clarke beat Civil Contractors Federation CEO David Elliott by a vote of 50 to 36 on February 19, retaining his spot on the Liberal ticket after both federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott and the NSW Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell gave him their backing. Moderate Liberals supported Clarke in return for two of their own candidates gaining preselection.

Clarke is commonly referred to as the leader of the religious right of the Liberals and has a history of making controversial statements about homosexuality.

He used his maiden speech in Parliament to oppose an equal of age of consent in NSW, and in 2004 claimed, “studies show a far higher rate of sexual molestation of children in homosexual households than in heterosexual households”.

Liberal MLC Charlie Lynn, who was rumoured to be prepared to quit the Liberals if Clarke was dumped, will remain in the party. In 2008 Lynn claimed the Labor Party had intended to “expose vulnerable young boys to sexual predators” through equalising the age of consent.

The progressive-conservative group within the Liberals is headed by a former protégé of Clarke’s, the federal Liberal MP, Alex Hawke.

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