Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has attacked the media for reporting inflammatory comments from a controversial candidate.
Barnaby Joyce attacked the media for focusing on contestant Katherine Deves’ anti-trans views, although he insisted it was not up to him to say whether she should be dumped.
A series of reports over the past week have reignited several inflammatory comments by Ms Deves on social media, including one where she compared her lobbying to stop transgender athletes from competing in women’s sport to standing up against the Holocaust.
Ms Deves was handpicked by a panel including the Prime Minister to be the Liberal candidate for the Warringah seat in Sydney, currently held by independent Zali Steggall, after ousting Tony Abbott.
The candidate has since apologized and withdrawn her views, but that has drowned out calls to step down.
When asked if she should be dumped, the Deputy Prime Minister said it was not for him to say, before launching into a tirade on the media for not focusing on what “ really matters”.
“If I’m walking in Tamworth or walking around Wagga or talking to people from Stawell to Victoria or Moama, they’re not going ‘oh, well, I’m really worried about Katherine,'” he said. told reporters at Gladstone.
“It’s not in their mind.
“You have to understand in politics, people, there’s a difference between what could be a really interesting story in the Fourth Estate and what actually matters,” he said.
He said his “focus, focus, focus” was on real issues like roads and a burn unit for Gladstone.
It comes as Deputy Treasurer Michael Sukkar also threw his support behind Ms Deves despite fresh calls for her to be disapproved.
Speaking to 2GB, Mr Sukkar added his name to the list of government MPs, including Scott Morrison himself, who have backed the embattled candidate.
He added that while he had not ‘examined’ all of her statements, he was supporting the ‘grassroots campaign’ which Ms Deves had ‘long run’.
“I absolutely support Katherine. Katherine is a highly qualified individual who fights for women’s rights in sport,” Mr Sukkar said.
“It’s a hugely important thing and something that I think has broad community support.”
Incumbent Independent MP Zali Steggall has also ratcheted up the heat on Mr Morrison for choosing a candidate with “revolting policies”.
“We have to be very clear, she didn’t walk away from the sentiment of those words,” Ms Steggall told ABC Radio National.
She added that his choice proved he was “deaf” to his community: “It says a lot about his character.”
On Sunday, Minister for Women Marise Payne sought to distance herself from Ms Deves’ controversial comments.
While Senator Payne said she didn’t share her point of view and noted that the Warringah hopeful had apologized and withdrawn her comments, she paused before insisting that she be disapproved.
“It’s a question for the organization in New South Wales. I must continue my work. That’s what I’m doing. And I disagree with the remarks she made. I made it clear,” she told ABC’s Insiders.
Joe Ball, managing director of LGBTIQA+ helpline Switchboard Victoria, said the organization had seen an increase in calls after Ms Deves’ comments were first reported.
He added that trans people like him had come under a ‘sustained attack’ which began with the introduction of Mr Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill.
“People absolutely react to articles in the media. Whether its politicians arguing about it or op-eds in national newspapers, these debates have real consequences for real people when they unfold at home, in community centers and in religious organizations,” Mr. Ball on ABC National Radio.