Campaigning in the Canning by-election is getting personal, with the Liberal candidate being accused of trying to distance himself from the federal leadership.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said former SAS captain Andrew Hastie is “trying to make out that he’s running to be the president of the Republic of Canning, that he’s going to have nothing to do with Tony Abbott and his team in Canberra”.
“But we all know that Andrew Hastie will have to defend all of the captain’s picks that Tony Abbott’s team are having to defend,” Ms Plibersek told reporters in Armadale.
Moments later, in nearby Byford, Greens leader Richard Di Natale was asked about Mr Hastie telling the recent Liberal state conference that it is “disgusting” others are using the by-election as a chance to advocate solar energy.
“How rich coming from someone from the coalition to make an argument that we shouldn’t be campaigning on those issues that affect people here very directly,” Dr Di Natale said on Tuesday.
He also referred to Friday’s Border Force debacle, saying the coalition is using “fear around immigrants … in an effort to try and elevate the issue of national security to an election issue”.
“We’ve got a government that is intent on using fear and division in an attempt to boost its numbers in the polls because it has no plan, no vision and no agenda for the country,” Dr Di Natale said.
He hoped the Canning by-election is the turning point in having the prime minister “booted out”.
The attacks on Mr Hastie come after the controversy involving troops under his former command, relating to the accidental killing of two Afghan boys by a US helicopter crew.
Mr Hastie was not present during the February 2013 incident and he and his men have been fully cleared of blame, The Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday.