Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has dumped the ALP’s candidate for the safe Labor Victorian seat of Hotham following claims of misconduct several years ago, while another candidate has quit the campaign after a racism row.
Geoff Lake was forced again to apologise for abusing a fellow councillor during a meeting of Monash City Council in 2002.
Details of a sexual harassment claim from the time, reportedly being shopped around by his own party colleagues, say he called Liberal councillor Kathy Magee a “f…ing bitch” and a “f…ing slut”.
Mr Lake told News Corp newspapers he had apologised several times to Ms Magee and was still remorseful.
Labor ministers including Mark Dreyfus and Tanya Plibersek defended Mr Lake on Saturday, saying it was a long time ago, when he was 22, and he had apologised many times.
However, late on Saturday, Mr Rudd issued a statement saying the party had removed Mr Lake’s endorsement following a report by Labor’s national secretary George Wright into misconduct claims.
“The national secretary has informed me that he is not satisfied that there has been full disclosure about these previous matters,” Mr Rudd said.
“Based on the investigation, I have concluded that it is inappropriate for Mr Lake to continue as the endorsed Labor candidate for Hotham.”
He said he would ask the national executive to preselect a new candidate for the Hotham.
Meanwhile, Labor candidate for Kennedy, Ken Robertson, has resigned after reportedly calling Tony Abbott a bigot, Sky News says.
“I hope Australia never has to suffer his Catholicism and the things that he’s doing personally, because I think he’s a very, very bigoted person,” Mr Robertson reportedly said.
“He’d have the White Australia policy back in a flash, if he could.”
Earlier on Saturday, the coalition said Mr Rudd’s sincerity about party reform would be tested by what action he takes against the two Labor candidates.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said the two reports of “serious misconduct” posed a test for Mr Rudd.
He linked it to Thursday’s announcement Labor was dumping its candidate for Forde, Des Hardman, in favour of former Queensland premier Peter Beattie.
“If Mr Rudd is willing ruthlessly to sack a candidate who is innocent of any wrongdoing, what leadership will he show, what action will he take against these two candidates … who have in different ways disgraced themselves?” he asked reporters in Brisbane,” Senator Brandis said.
“If Mr Rudd stands by these candidate, while dismissing poor old Mr Hardman in Forde as part of his political chess game, then the Australian people will make their own judgments about Mr Rudd’s personal standards and they’ll make their own judgment about Mr Rudd’s hypocrisy.”
One Nation candidate Stephanie Banister, who was ridiculed after referring to Islam as a country in a television interview, has also withdrawn from the election campaign.