Annabel Digance created headaches for her former party colleagues last week when she publicly distanced herself from a 2014 flyer that was distributed by Labor in the seat of Elder – which she subsequently won.
The leaflet – emblazoned with the slogan ‘Can you trust Habib’ – was widely condemned as a “thinly-veiled racist attack” on the then-Liberal candidate’s Lebanese heritage.
Digance told The Australian and the ABC last week the campaign was “just wrong” but she was prevented from criticising it, or apologising to Habib, by unnamed senior Labor figures.
The claims prompted the Liberals to successfully move for a parliamentary committee to investigate the matters raised.
Habib, who now uses her married surname Power, later won the seat from Digance at the 2018 state election.
But new claims about that later 2018 campaign have surfaced, with Habib’s then-campaign manager – former Marshall Government minister David Ridgway – airing allegations under parliamentary privilege last week against Digance’s husband, Greg, who played an active role in her campaign.
“I would like to put on the record that during the 2018 election campaign, in front of the Muslim mosque on the day before the election, Mr Digance was telling Ms Habib, ‘You had a breakdown last election, you cried and we are going to break you again tomorrow, and you are going to cry again’,” Ridgway told parliament.
Greg Digance did not respond to requests for comment, telling InDaily: “I don’t have any comment to make to you – I have to go now.”
Contacted by InDaily, Power has supported Ridgway’s version of events, saying the comments were made “in between handing out flyers and really I was just trying to block it out since it was quite unnecessarily awful and I was trying to smile and say hello to people coming out of the mosque”.
Annabel Digance told The Australian last week that she had agonised about calling Habib to apologise for the flyer after the 2014 election, saying: “I have thought often about doing it but the whole experience must have been so horrible for her that after all these years I am not sure how she would feel about even talking to me.”
Power told ABC Radio Adelaide last week she found it “very difficult” to believe Digance’s apology was genuine, after her former opponent claimed she was also a “victim” of the campaign.
“You are nothing like me,” Power told Digance on radio.
“You’ve had every opportunity over the last seven years… to get in contact with me – you haven’t… so I do find it difficult to believe that it is genuine.”
InDaily has asked Digance if she is aware of the claims against her husband, but she has not responded.
Ridgway told parliament that before the leaflet was distributed in the 2014 campaign, Greg Digance “was constantly telling our volunteers… ‘We have got some stuff on your candidate. We are going to fix her. We are going to beat her.’”
He said that “Mr Digance had alleged that one of our volunteers had assaulted one of their [Labor] volunteers” the day before the election, but insisted “we got the CCTV footage after the election and no such assault ever happened”.
He also detailed allegations of repugnant behaviour from other ALP campaign staff – though not Greg Digance – during the 2014 campaign, saying: “We saw our volunteers’ bra straps being twinged and comments like—and this is unparliamentary—’Why don’t you come outside for a beer and a root behind the shed.’”
“Some of our young female volunteers were verbally abused in the most unpleasant way,” he said.
Contacted by InDaily, ALP state secretary Reggie Martin said: “Behaviour like that is outrageous and unacceptable, and if [Ridgway] can provide us with further information, [those responsible] will be dealt with harshly.”
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