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Redmond says Yarwood "unfit for office"

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On the eve of the local government elections, former Liberal leader Isobel Redmond has used parliamentary privilege to launch an extraordinary attack on Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood, who is seeking re-election.

Redmond told the House of Assembly yesterday that Yarwood was “unfit to hold the office”.

She recounted an anecdote from 2013 during which she claimed Yarwood had subjected her to a tirade of verbal abuse.

“Make no mistake, when I say ‘abuse’, I really mean abuse,” she said.

“Without putting too fine a point on it he called me, amongst other things, ‘an effing c’. I will let you put in the expletives. That was what showed me the true make of this man whom other might regard as ‘affable’ but whom I have studiously avoided contact since that day.”

Yarwood has strenuously denied the claim, saying he would never use that language.

“It’s totally untrue,” he said. “I’d never say that to anyone.”

He said the conversation lasted just 30 seconds and “the timing of her statement speaks for itself”.

It’s the second time this year that Redmond has used parliamentary privilege to attack a public figure. Earlier this year, she said that the state’s Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley was “utterly corrupt” – a claim she later withdrew and apologised for.

Yesterday, she described an encounter with Yarwood which she said happened in 2013 after she had been replaced as Opposition Leader by Stephen Marshall.

She was attending a function at Government House at 5pm, and her car journey across town had taken her more time than usual.

She was waiting to cross King William Street “feeling somewhat rushed and annoyed” when Yarwood emerged from a car and stood beside her.

“We greeted each other and I suggested that we were both probably running late for the same function,” she said.

“The Lord Mayor acknowledged that yes, he too, was on his way to Government House. Now, there is no denying that my next comment was provocative. Indeed, I do not deny that I intended it to be provocative. I made a comment to the effect that in allowing only one hour for what used to be a 20 minute trip I had failed to make adequate allowance for the council’s and government’s plans to make this city as inaccessible and difficult as possible for those of us who choose to live in the suburbs.”

She said the comment was meant to be provocative.

“I would have to say that if I was trying to provoke a response I had certainly succeeded. The Lord Mayor launched an attack unlike any I had ever experienced—and believe me, Madam Deputy Speaker, I have experienced some! He began slowly at first to explain to me that I do not know anything about town planning which, as it happens, is not actually true. I studied local government and town planning law as one of my electives, became familiar with state planning law as a member of local government many years ago and was involved with the environmental law movement before I ever came into this place. But I did not even have a chance to respond to that. He had launched, and the tirade was as unstoppable as a firecracker at the Chinese new year’s celebrations. I literally did not utter another word after my original comment.

“The attack, which deteriorated to just an unending torrent of verbal abuse continued right across the six-lanes of King William Street, across the slip lane, through the front gate where I just smiled at the guard as the abuse continued, and all the way up the gravel drive literally to the front steps of Government House, at which point he stopped and we went our separate ways.

“Make no mistake, when I say ‘abuse’, I really mean abuse. Without putting too fine a point on it he called me, amongst other things, ‘an effing c’. I will let you put in the expletives. That was what showed me the true make of this man whom other might regard as ‘affable’ but whom I have studiously avoided contact since that day.

“It transpired that, unbeknownst to me the ‘affable Lord Mayor’ had had a difficult press conference earlier that same day—or so I was later told. I did not see the news that night, but I am told that the press conference ended with him pushing a camera out of the way. If that was the case then that might explain his behaviour, but it certainly does not excuse it. I for one do not think he is an appropriate person to hold the office of Lord Mayor, and he, no doubt, is glad that I do not give a vote.”

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