Kevin Rudd has given marching orders to two Labor federal candidates four weeks out from the election over insulting language they used against political opponents.
One is Geoff Lake, the candidate in the seat of Hotham in Victoria. It is currently held by former ALP leader Simon Crean and one of Labor’s safest seats.
Last week it emerged that during his time as a local councillor he had abused a woman in a wheelchair, calling her a “f—ing slut” or a “f–ing bitch”.
Lake’s issue appears to be failure to fully disclose the incident in 2002, which led to a signed apology to his then fellow councillor Kathy Magee.
The other candidate dropped was Ken Robertson, who was standing in the seat of Kennedy in Queensland.
Robertson last week unleashed an extraordinary tirade in which he referred to Tony Abbott repeatedly as “rabbit”, and repeatedly referring to him as a bigot. He told the Courier Mail that Abbott “would have the White Australia policy back in a flash, if he could”.
While Robertson had no prospect of being elected – Kennedy is held by Bob Katter with around an 18% margin over the LNP – the consequences for Lake are more far-reaching. Having served as a local politician he had just been selected to stand in a seat with a Labor margin of 14%, with his candidacy endorsed by Crean and former Victorian premier Steve Bracks.
Labor will now be looking for a suitable candidate to take his place on the ballot.
Rudd issued a statement last night saying it was “inappropriate for Mr Lake to continue as the endorsed Labor candidate for Hotham” and that the national secretary “has informed me that he is not satisfied that there has been full disclosure about these previous matters”.
Rudd said: “I cannot be confident that he has met the standards I would expect and demand from members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.”
There’s more at the Herald Sun.
One of Rudd’s key challenges in this campaign is convincing voters that the Labor party is clear on the standards of behaviour expected by the public. But while dropping candidates like Lake and Roberston can be a bit of a show of a no-tolerance approach from Rudd, it’s also a distraction from the campaign themes he wants to be talking about.
After drawing level on a two-party basis in the polls just after he regained the leadership, Rudd has finished the first week behind and polls this weekend have Abbott marginally ahead. Anything that draws attention to internal Labor party issues will continue to hurt.
The first TV debate tonight plays to Rudd’s strengths, but the headlines on the morning of the broadcast won’t help.
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