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PM denies attacking 2007 preselection rival’s Lebanese ethnicity

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The Prime Minister has again rejected claims he made racist comments during a 2007 preselection battle for his NSW lower house seat of Cook.

Outgoing Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells last week made the accusations under parliamentary privilege, claiming Scott Morrison told party members they couldn’t have a Lebanese person as a candidate.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday published details from two statutory declarations signed in 2016 about the 2007 preselection campaign.

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The declarations claim Mr Morrison said the Liberal Party should not back his main opponent because of his Lebanese background and rumours he was a Muslim.

Mr Morrison on Wednesday denied Senator Fierravanti-Wells’ initial accusations, labelling the comments as “rubbish”.

Unqualified denial

The Prime Minister continued to deny the claims on Saturday, replying “no” three times when asked by reporters if he made the comments.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said while he wouldn’t comment on the allegations, they showed Mr Morrison’s character.

“I am not a member and wasn’t involved in the Cook Liberal Party pre-selection,” Mr Albanese told reporters on Saturday.

“But I do know this – the Prime Minister only received eight votes out of all the votes that were cast in that preselection ballot.

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“When people had a look at where he was at, they judged that the other candidates would be better to represent their local community.”

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie this week joined Senator Fierravanti-Wells in criticising Mr Morrison, describing him as “unpleasant” and a “bully”.

But senior Liberal party members showed their support for the PM, with Senator Jane Hume saying Mr Morrison was “extraordinarily supportive”.

-AAP

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