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Social media minefield for election candidates

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Social media is continuing to trip up candidates for the federal election, with the Labor, Liberal and United Australia parties all battling racism and sexism controversies due to posts from endorsed candidates.

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Labor’s candidate in the seat of Melbourne has quit over his “awful” social media posts about rape and women.

Luke Creasey told the party on Friday he had withdrawn his candidacy after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten earlier attempted to ride out the storm.

But after Shorten asked party officials for more information, the candidate pulled the pin.

“Today, I have called the ALP national secretary and advised that I will be withdrawing as Labor’s candidate,” Creasey said in a statement.

“While I made those awful comments many years ago and they in no way reflect the views I hold today, I understand, especially as a member of the LGBTIQ community, that we need to be careful about what we share or like on social media.”

After Shorten earlier accepted his candidate’s apology for sharing rape jokes and making offensive remarks about women, saying it happened seven years ago, it emerged that in the same year Creasey joked about watching a female friend have sex with multiple people and wanting somebody to “roughly take her virginity”.

“I have now asked the secretary of the Victorian Labor Party to get me a full brief in the next couple of hours so we can get to the bottom of everything,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

“I think I should get a full brief now that more material has arrived, but we want to put an end to this matter one way or the other today.”

Shorten had earlier dug in behind Creasey after days of scrutiny over the derogatory social media posts in 2012.

Shorten said Creasey’s remarks were “deeply offensive, shocking and stupid”.

“He has also come forward and said he was 22 at the time, seven years ago. He is mortified, as he should be,” the opposition leader told reporters earlier today.

“He doesn’t want to cause any embarrassment and he doesn’t hold those views now. He has apologised deeply and he certainly doesn’t hold those views now.”

Liberal frontbencher Mathias Cormann said the Labor candidate’s “uniquely disgraceful” comments were not befitting of an aspiring politician.

It came as a Liberal candidate for the Tasmanian seat of Lyons stood down over a series of anti-Islamic posts to social media.

Jessica Whelan maintains she did not make one of the Islamophobic comments that emerged under her name this week and has referred the “doctored” Facebook post to federal police.

But the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party says Whelan has accepted she made “some of the other posts in question” and offered her resignation, which it has accepted.

“Clearly these posts are inappropriate, and the Liberal Party was not aware of their existence until they were reported,” a party spokesman said on Friday.

The Hobart Mercury has uncovered two new Facebook posts bearing the candidate’s name and photograph.

One called for a national vote on banning Muslim immigration, and the other argued Tasmania should not accept refugees from Syria and Iraq.

“Don’t bloody send them to Tasmania. We don’t want them,” it said.

Whelan was already under fire over another post that argued women who supported Islam should be mutilated and sold as slaves.

“Round them up Donald, cut their clitoris’ off & sell them to Muslims in Muslim countries & cancel their passports. You’ll make a mint,” it stated.

A party spokesman said this particular post appeared to have been digitally manipulated.

“Ms Whelan strenuously denies making this comment.”

Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White told the Mercury she was prepared to give sworn evidence that other comments made on her Facebook page were from Whelan.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday it was not hard in this day and age to believe that images could be doctored.

Liberal campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham didn’t repeat the sentiment on Friday, stressing there were posts and information Whelan had not declared to the party.

“We’re not going to tolerate racist comments,” he told Nine’s Today Show.

Howard-era minister Amanda Vanstone said the major parties need to improve their vetting processes.

“It’s just a joke. How does anybody like this get through, in Liberal, Labor, or whatever?” she said.

She said would-be candidates should be grilled one-on-one by the state president of the party.

Mathias Cormann said there is already “quite a lot of vetting that does go on”.

“But obviously not everything is identified. It would always be preferable if it was,” he told Sky News.

Lyons has been in contention for the Liberals, who needed to overcome a 3.8 per cent margin to win the seat.

The party is now urging voters to elect Nationals candidate for the seat, Deanna Hutchinson.

And a candidate for Clive Palmer’s party is also in hot water for remarks posted on social media.

United Australia Party candidate Tony Hanley, who is running for the new seat of Bean in the ACT, called Saudi Arabians “tea towel heads” and described the children of taxi drivers as “future terrorists”.

Hanley also referred to women as “dykes” and “big fat fugly chicks” and made disparaging remarks about LGBTI people.

The posts were made on a since-deleted Facebook page under Mr Hanley’s name.

Hanley told the ABC his posts were “defendable” and pointed to his record of community work.

-with AAP

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