Party members say Morrison used Lebanese background against opponent

The second statement, written by Mr Towke, says a number of party members told him that Morrison had appealed to them to vote against him “simply because my family heritage was Lebanese” because this would harm the liberal campaign.

“He was adamant and clear that a candidate of Lebanese heritage could not hold Cook’s seat, especially after the Cronulla riots,” he said.

Sydney Morning Herald and Age contacted Mr Towke, but declined to comment.

The statutory declarations were signed in 2016 after several years of litigation in which Towke received $ 50,000 from News Corp Australia publications for his reports of claims against him and also received $ 33,000 from the Liberal Party to reimburse his legal costs. The two statutory declarations were not used in legal proceedings.

Mr Morrison denied on Saturday that he had ever warned Liberal Party members that Cook’s secure seat – which he hoped would be pre-selected at the time in 2007 – could be lost because voters could mistakenly believe Towke was a Muslim.

Asked directly if he had said those words, or warned about Towke’s Lebanese background, the prime minister said “no” three times to questions from journalists.

Asked where the story came from, Morrison said “you have to ask them”.

Morrison’s spokesman emphatically denied the allegations when asked if the prime minister had spoken in this way about his opponent’s Lebanese background or the rumor that he was a Muslim.

“These allegations are baseless and false and reflect poorly on those who spread such lies with such malicious intent,” the spokesman said.

The former seat member, Bruce Baird, who was aware of the pre-election dispute but did not vote in the disputed vote, said he had never heard Morrison say anything racist.

“I never found him a racist, I did not find him a bully,” said Mr Baird, who employed Mr Morrison on the Tourism Council when he led the organization in the 1990s, during a period between being NSW minister and moving in. in federal politics.

“There were a lot of people he interacted with, but no one said he was a bully. I never heard him say anything racist at all.”

Another former member, Stephen Mutch, who represented Cook in the 1990s, said he voted for Mr Towke in the vote after hearing from Mr Morrison.

“In that preselection, Morrison’s telephone sales to me encouraged my support for Michael Towke,” said Dr. Mutch, who graduated from Macquarie University after leaving Parliament.

Dr Mutch added that he had great sympathy for Senator Fierravanti-Wells in her complaint about “manipulated pre-election processes” in the NSW branch of the Liberal Party, a concern that led some members to go to court last week to seek suffrage in pre-election polls.

“The fact that true grassroots democracy is a sick joke in the party is the reason I am no longer a member of it,” he said.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells told the Senate on Tuesday that Scott Morrison “was not fit to be prime minister” because of his actions.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The events of 2007 have been controversial within the Liberal Party ever since Morrison gained support and entered parliament, leading Senator Fierravanti-Wells to tell the Senate on Tuesday that he “was not fit to be prime minister” because of his behavior.

In an extraordinary attack on a Liberal prime minister by an elected member of his party ahead of an election, Senator Fierravanti-Wells described Morrison as “ruthless” and a “bully” and said he had made “racist comments” against Towke in the 2007 primary. .

Mr Towke was close to Fierravanti-Wells who had supported him in his pre-election.

Mr Morrison dismissed those allegations last week, saying he understood why Senator Fierravanti-Wells was “disappointed” because she lost a vote last month to retain her seat on the Senate ticket, which means she will leave the upper house on June 30.

Government ministers including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and Finance Minister Jane Hume defended Morrison, noting that Senator Fierrvanti-Wells had lost the vote to stay in Parliament.

“I can say that I have never experienced bullying within the party, certainly not from this Prime Minister,” Senator Hume said last week.

Two other candidates in the 2007 contested election, Paul Fletcher and David Coleman, also lost to Mr Morrison but went on to win other seats for the Liberal Party in later elections and both serve as government ministers.

Mr Fletcher is the Minister of Communications and Mr Coleman is the Deputy Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. In the years since the vote, neither has said Morrison made racist comments or acted unfairly, but both have declined to comment on this story.

Questions of character are likely to become part of the election campaign after Morrison challenged Albanese on whether he had the toughness to lead the country.

Mr Albanese has been under fire from the government for his refusal to open an inquiry into the treatment of Kimberley Kitching, who died of a suspected heart attack on March 10.

With Senator Kitching’s friends revealing concerns that she was being bullied by Senate colleagues including Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher, the government has accused the Labor leader of being a hypocrite for not being willing to investigate problems in his own party after requested scrutiny into the Liberals.

“What we have received from Anthony Albanese, at the first sign of difficult questions, and we are not even into the campaign, he has completely hidden. Honestly, I think it is quite brave,” Morrison said on March 22.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Clare O’Neil, a spokeswoman for care for the elderly, took a swipe at Mr Morrison during an interview with Sky News on Friday by listing people including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who had expressed a “very vague view” of the prime minister.

Joyce admitted calling Morrison a “hypocrite and a liar” in a private text message leaked to the media, while Labor points to people including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie, former liberal Julia Banks who called him a bully.

But when former Prime Minister John Howard was asked about the allegations last week, he defended Morrison.

“I have not seen any evidence of that [Mr Morrison] is a bully, that he is arrogant or something like that. Powerful? Well, anyone who gets to lead a political party is powerful, Howard said.

Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up for our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.

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