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Veteran Liberal MP Kevin Andrews faces preselection battle

In the 2011 Australia Day honours he received a Commendation for Distinguished Service, for duty in action.

Military veteran Keith Wolahan has been hailed as "the future" of the party.

Military veteran Keith Wolahan has been hailed as “the future” of the party.

Mr Wolahan declined to comment when contacted by The Age, citing party rules prohibiting party members from commenting on preselection. However, a senior Liberal with close knowledge of the situation said it was very likely he would nominate.

“The question for the party is whether it believes in renewal, especially when the future can be a decorated special forces war hero who was educated at the world’s best universities and is now an accomplished barrister,” the figure said.

Mr Andrews – who was an immigration minister in the Howard government and defence minister in the Abbott government – has held a safe Liberal seat in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs since winning a 1991 byelection. He held it at last May’s election by 7.5 per cent.

Mr Andrews, 64, also declined to comment on Sunday, citing party rules, but sources told The Age he would again contest the seat.

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Conservative factional figures have warned any challenge to Mr Andrews could trigger challenges to Tim Wilson in Goldstein and Russell Broadbent in Monash. However, supporters of both MPs told The Age they did not anticipate any threat.

The last high-profile challenge to a sitting Liberal MP in Victoria was in 2006, when current Treasurer Josh Frydenberg unsuccessfully challenged Petro Georgiou for the seat of Kooyong.

Mr Frydenberg won preselection three years later when Mr Georgiou retired at the 2010 election.

Mr Frydenberg and Victorian party president Robert Clark have been at loggerheads since last October over the state division’s plans to fast-track preselections, with factional figures furious Mr Clark was “defying” the party’s deputy leader over the decision.

The timeline – which is still subject to a challenge through a bid to call a special state council meeting next month – includes an upfront fee of $3000 to nominate, and all candidates and current MPs must undergo police and credit checks.

Proponents of the plan argue early preselections enable more members to participate in the vote, while also putting the party on a better footing to contest the election.

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