The battle between Australia’s two major political parties has turned ugly after Peter Dutton claimed his Labor opponent Ali France is using her disability as “an excuse” in an extraordinary interview.
France, who is a candidate in the marginal seat of Dickson, told The Australian this week that while she isn’t currently living in the electorate, she has been searching for a house and has unfortunately been unable to find a place with easy access for her wheelchair.
The former journalist said she doesn’t have the freedom like Dutton to own nine homes, one of which is in the electorate, claiming she would have to buy a house and renovate. It is for this reason France said she has remained living in her home which is reportedly only minutes away from the area.
However, the Home Affairs Minister didn’t accept her response, claiming her reasoning was simply “an excuse”.
Speaking to The Australian separately, Dutton claimed a number of residents are angry at France for her comments about not living in the area.
“A lot of people have raised this with me,” he told the news outlet. “I think they are quite angry that Ms France is using her disability as an excuse for not moving into our electorate.”
He added: “If you are serious about representing an area, you live in that area and using her disability as an excuse for not living in our area is really making residents angry.’’
France sadly lost her leg in a car accident in 2011, while walking outside a Brisbane shopping centre, the news outlet reports. She was pushing her son Zac in a stroller when a car crashed into her. The candidate has been in and out of hospital since then for multiple surgeries including the removal of her leg above the knee.
Fellow members of the Labor Party have lashed out at Dutton for his comments about the candidate, including leader Bill Shorten who called for an official apology. According to SBS, he said: “What we have here is Mr Dutton has insulted every Australian with a disability, and Mr Morrison has said, ‘That’s OK’.”
Elsewhere, Tanya Plibersek claimed Dutton doesn’t even reside in Dickson the majority of the time. Speaking on ABC Melbourne on Friday morning, the politician pointed an accusing finger at the Liberal politician, questioning who would say such a thing.
“Now this is from the bloke, by the way, who owns, I think at last report, it was nine homes, and spends most of his time in his Gold Coast mansion, actually tried to move seats from Dickson to a safe Gold Coast seat because he didn’t want to represent the people of Dickson, attacking a woman who spends her working life as a journalist, working for palliative care, just a fantastic human being,” The Guardian reports she said on the program.
“She actually lost her leg protecting her kids in a carpark accident, and he’s using this against her. I mean, what kind of person does this?”
Labor’s Linda Burney echoed her comments, taking to social media to share her thoughts on the situation.
She wrote in a post on Twitter: “Peter Dutton should be ashamed. This despicable attack on Labor’s @alifrance5 for having disability is as low as it gets. He must apologise. Scott Morrison should condemn his attacks unequivocally. This is the attitude of a gov w/a $1.6b NDIS underspend.”
Following the backlash from the Labor party, a spokesperson for Dutton has clarified his comments, claiming he was simply repeating the views that had been raised to him.
“Minister Dutton was repeating the views and concerns about the Labor candidate, raised with him by constituents – that is that she doesn’t live in the electorate and has told people locally that even if she wins the seat she won’t move into the electorate,” they said.
“Dickson constituents believe Ms France’s refusal to live in the electorate, even if she won the seat, is more about her enjoying the inner city lifestyle, as opposed to her inability to find a house anywhere in the electorate.”