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PM hit by racism accusation ahead of election

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been forced to deny reports he used racist slander in his campaign to first enter Parliament, just days before he is due to bring on May’s election.

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10 News First Adelaide – Disclaimer

Channel Ten

Last week Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells called Morrison unfit to be Prime Minister and said he had campaigned against a preselection rival, Michael Towke, because of his Lebanese heritage.

The contents of statutory declarations signed in 2016 by Towke and a preselector, Scott Chapman, were made public this weekend – first reported by The Saturday Paper – and included claims Morrison had made comments about the political downsides of Towke’s race while spreading misplaced rumours that he was a Muslim.

“These are quite malicious and bitter slurs, which are deeply offensive, and I reject them absolutely,” Morrison said while campaigning in Tasmania on Sunday.

“I could not reject this more fundamentally.”

The New Daily called more than 20 long-time Liberal Party members from the Cook federal electorate conference on Sunday.

All agreed Towke had been hit by a barrage of damaging falsehoods but none could say they had personally seen evidence Morrison was directing it.

Cook Liberal Wade McInerney recalled that after Towke bested Morrison in the preselection ballot by 82 votes to eight, party officials in charge of vetting candidates began regularly demanding answers about a string of damaging claims.

“They were all spurious,” he said.

“He just sat there languishing with all the allegations around him.”

Another Liberal involved in the preselection, who declined to be quoted by name, said material had been circulated among preselectors attempting to link Towke to local cases of disorderly behaviour.

The emergence of new details about the cloudy circumstances in which Morrison entered Parliament could not have come at a worse time for the Prime Minister, who is trying to sell voters on his budget handouts and has been preparing to formally initiate an election campaign.

Ramping up its campaign on Sunday, Labor seized the opportunity to revive questions about Morrison’s character, which had been running hot before Parliament began this year after leaked texts allegedly showed a front-bench colleague calling the Prime Minister a “complete psycho”.

“I don’t think anybody believes the Prime Minister, frankly. I don’t think people believe the Prime Minister more broadly,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said.

 – James Robertson, The New Daily

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