Scott Morrison accused of lying about denials he used race in bid for seat

The events surrounding the bitterly contested 2007 preselection battle for the seat of Cook – for which Mr Morrison ultimately secured the party’s endorsement – ​​have resurfaced as part of a broader factional feud dogging the NSW Liberal Party.

Micheal Towke in 2007 after he won the Liberal Party preselection for the seat of Cook.

Micheal Towke in 2007 after he won the Liberal Party preselection for the seat of Cook.Credit:Lisa Wiltse/LWZ

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age first revealed on Sunday that Mr Towke believed the Prime Minister was directly involved in “racial vilification” against him. Mr Towke also said he stood by his claims of him in a newly revealed 2016 statutory declaration that the Prime Minister told party members it was electorally risky to select Mr Towke because of his Lebanese heritage and because of rumors he was a Muslim.

Mr Towke grew up as a Maronite Catholic and went to Marcellin College in Randwick.

Mr Morrison said the support he received from Lebanese community leaders should put an end to the matter.

“More importantly, leaders of Lebanese communities have made their own statements and, I think, put that matter to rest,” he said on Monday.

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Prominent south-west Sydney doctor Jamal Rifi, former NSW MP John Ajaka, and Sutherland Shire Liberal councilor Hassan Awada are among the high-profile members of Sydney’s Lebanese community who have voiced their support for Mr Morrison.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews also defended Mr Morrison on Monday.

“There’s a myriad of people who have come out and defended the PM from the Lebanese community. And they’ve done that because they’ve worked with him,” Mr Tehan told ABC radio.

“They know the caliber of the PM.”

Ms Andrews said she had no knowledge of the circumstances of the allegations beyond what had been publicly reported, but she was confident in Mr Morrison’s integrity.

“What I can say about the Prime Minister is that in his dealings with me I have always found him to be very firm, very fair in those dealings,” Ms Andrews said.

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who supported Mr Towke in the 2007 preselection and later employed him as a staffer, disclosed the existence of the statutory declarations in a searing speech to the Senate last week, days after losing her own preselection, where she denounced Mr Morrison as “ruthless” and a “bully”.

Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.

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