PM defends ‘captain’s pick’ in Warringah

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended a candidate he personally chose for the Sydney seat of Warringah despite Liberal party members calling for her to be disendorsed.

Katherine Deves has come under fire this week after her previous comments emerged whereby she mocked fears inside the trans community of suicide due to discrimination, called trans children “mutilated” and compared her resistance to trans athletes to opposing the Holocaust.

Mr Morrison said while he believed the remarks were insensitive, he did not agree Ms Deves should be dumped.

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“As you are going forward as a candidate you need to know the things that perhaps, in your past, you shouldn’t be doing the same way,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

“It is important she understand that and learns those lessons which she has.”

But NSW Treasurer and fellow Liberal Matt Kean came out swinging against Ms Deves over the series of anti-trans comments.

“There is no place in a mainstream political party for bigotry,” Mr Kean said on Thursday.

“Political leaders should be condemning the persecution of people based on their gender, not participating in it.”

Mr Morrison said he would not join in a “pile-on” against Ms Deves.

“I don’t share Matt’s view. I share (former prime minister and member for Warringah) Tony Abbott’s view. I’m not joining that pile-on and she has learned from her experiences … and I have no doubt she will pursue these issues in a more sensitive way,” he said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was “extraordinary” that Ms Deves had been handpicked by the prime minister, pointing to his previous captain’s pick of now-United Australia Party leader and conspiracy theorist Craig Kelly.

“She (Ms Deves) is the prime minister’s own’s choice,” Mr Albanese said.

Controversy surrounded Labor’s candidate for Hunter, Dan Repacholi, over old social media posts, including one where he dubbed India a “s***hole”.

But Mr Albanese said the difference was Mr Repacholi’s social media gaffes had been made in his 20s while Ms Deves anti-trans comments more recent.

“This candidate in Warringah … her main political approach has been on these issues,” Mr Albanese said.

Warringah is held by independent Zali Steggall on a margin of more than seven per cent after she defeated Mr Abbott in 2019.

Mr Abbott on Friday called on the Liberal Party to stick with Ms Deves, describing her as “tough” and “brave” and referring to the criticisms of her as a pile-on.

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Peter Fray

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