One of Scott Morrison’s political rivals has been forced to double down on claims the prime minister tried to use his Lebanese background against him.
Michael Towke accused Mr Morrison of telling their fellow Liberal Party members it would be ‘risky’ to consider him for the seat of Cook in Sydney’s south in 2007.
Mr Morrison flatly denied using his preselection opponent’s heritage to get himself elected, forcing Mr Towke to reveal new details of his claims.
The politician claimed Mr Morrison cast these doubts because he was from a Lebanese family and because of false rumours he was a Muslim.
He alleged the prime minister pointed to the infamous Cronulla riots two years earlier and said he was unsure if locals would vote to get Mr Towke elected in the Shire due to his ethnicity.
Scott Morrison (pictured delivering his maiden speech in 2008) has been accused of using a political rival’s Lebanese background against him when he first ran for political office
Michael Towke has double-downed on his accusations Scott Morrison told fellow Liberal Party members it would be ‘risky’ to consider him for the seat of Cook in Sydney’s south in 2007
Mr Morrison denied the accusations when quizzed by reporters on Saturday, prompting Mr Towke to back two statutory declarations he signed in 2016.
‘I stand by the declarations I asserted in my statutory declaration,’ he told the Sun Herald in his first public statement since the comments became public.
‘Amongst many unedifying tactics used to unseat me from my preselection victory for Morrison, racial vilification was front and centre and he was directly involved.
‘Racism is divisive, creating hate and hurt, and should have no place in Australian society.’
The statements follow accusations by Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells in the Senate on Tuesday that Mr Morrison was ‘not fit to be prime minister’ based on the alleged historical racial comments.
Ms Fierravanti-Wells also claimed the PM had interfered with the 2007 preselection contest after winning only eight votes versus Towke’s 82 in an initial ballot.
Mr Morrison (pictured at Parliament House in 2008) flatly denied the accusations he had ‘warned’ voters about Towke’s family background when quizzed by reporters on Saturday
‘Morrison might profess to be Christian, but there was nothing Christian about what was done to Michael Towke,’ she told the senate.
‘I am advised that there are several statutory declarations to attest to racial comments made by Morrison at the time that we can’t have a Lebanese person in Cook.’
When asked about the allegations on Saturday, Mr Morrison denied suggestions on three occasions that he ‘warned’ voters about Mr Towke’s family background or that he was a practicing Muslim.
The prime minister then added ‘you’ll have to ask them’ when asked where the accusations originated from.
His spokesman on Friday also dismissed the bombshell allegations and labelled them as ‘baseless and false’ and spread with ‘malicious intent’.
In one of the statutory declarations, party member Scott Chapman – a friend of Mr Towke – states Mr Morrison outlined his rival’s ethnicity.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells on Tuesday described Mr Morrison (pictured on Saturday) as ‘ruthless’ and a ‘bully’ in an extraordinary Senate attack in Canberra
‘Scott Morrison told me that, if Michael Towke were to be pre-selected, there would be a ‘swing against the Liberal Party in Cook’ because of Mr Towke’s Lebanese background,’ Mr Chapman said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr Towke penned the second declaration and claims Mr Morrison was ‘adamant that a candidate of Lebanese heritage could not hold the seat of Cook, especially after the Cronulla riots’.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells this week described Mr Morrison as ‘ruthless’ and a ‘bully’ in an extraordinary Senate attack in Canberra given she is an elected member of the prime minister’s party.
Her attack was dismissed by many politicians due to her friendship with Mr Towke and the fact she will leave the upper house in June after losing her place on the Senate ticket to stay in parliament.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese claimed the racial allegations pointed at Mr Morrison reflect his poor character.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese claimed the racial allegations pointed at Mr Morrison reflect on his character
‘These reports join other reports from within the Prime Minister’s own party,’ the Opposition Leader said in a press conference on Saturday.
‘Be it former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, his current Deputy Barnaby Joyce, comments that have been made by (former NSW premier) Gladys Berejiklian, or the comments this week from Concetta Fierravanti-Wells… there is a theme which comes through about the Prime Minister’s character.
‘People can look at those comments and make their own judgements.
‘There are bad relationships wherever Scott Morrison has been. He doesn’t have lasting friendships and lasting loyalties.’
Mr Albanese also said that in 2007 Mr Morrison’s eight votes in the Cook Liberal Party pre-selection ballot, and that it was obvious locals felt ‘the other candidates would be better to represent their local community.’
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie continued the pile-on this week, describing the PM as ‘unpleasant’ and a ‘bully’.
‘It was like dealing with a two-year-old, to be honest with you, on a tempy tampy. That’s what it was like,’ Ms Lambie said on Q&A on Tuesday night.
She also echoed Senator Fierravanti-Wells’ statements about Mr Morrison.
‘I cannot take anything away from what Connie Fierravanti-Wells said, straight out of her mouth and straight to the point,’ the independent senator said.
‘And I can tell you she did it very, very well. It was not nasty. It was just the truth. And that is the truth of the matter. It was either his way or the highway.’