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Victorian Liberals deny knowing candidate’s links

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The Liberal Party’s Victorian director has denied he was aware of a candidate’s links to a controversial church at the time of her pre-selection.

The party distanced itself from upper house hopeful Renee Heath on Saturday after it was revealed she was a member of the City Builders Church.

The church has been accused of promoting gay-conversion therapy and being opposed to gay, transgender and reproductive rights.

Liberal Leader Matthew Guy on Saturday said it was too late to disendorse Ms Heath as a candidate but she would not sit in the party room if elected next week.

Reports published on Sunday said senior Liberal figures were warned of Ms Heath’s views weeks ago and yet the party chose to endorse her.

Liberal state director Sam McQuestin denied the reports, saying none of the information about Ms Heath’s ongoing and recent engagement with Pastor Jonathan David was made available to him.

Mr Guy backed his state director, saying Mr McQuestin followed the proper process for endorsing candidates.

“I wasn’t on the candidate selection process but I trust implicitly my party to do that work with the information they have at the time,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“The process went through the checks and balances… and that’s very important.”

The Liberal Leader said he would also stand by his candidate for Narre Warren North after Timothy Dragan’s comments against abortion and Indigenous Australians were leaked.

Mr Dragan was recorded saying “we won this land fair and square” and it would be “bollocks” to give it back to Indigenous Australians in audio published by The Age.

He also made comments against abortion and climate change to people at a polling booth.

Mr Guy said Mr Dragan had apologised for his comments and the Liberal Party already had “clear plans” to progress treaty and LGBTIQ+ rights.

“Lots of people have different points of view,” Mr Guy told reporters.

“As I’ve said constantly, if people express a different point of view respectfully and sensibly, then that’s up to them to do so.

“If it’s disrespectful, I’d ask for an apology. It was disrespectful. I’ve asked for an apology and we got it.”

The repeated setbacks could hurt the coalition at next week’s election, with opinion polls pointing to Premier Daniel Andrews’ government securing a third consecutive term.

While Labor is under a fresh corruption cloud of its own, former state Labor deputy campaign director turned independent pollster Kos Samaras said the controversies were not helping the Liberals’ cause.

“Both parties have got a problem. Both of them will end up in the 30s in terms of primary votes,” he told AAP.

“The Liberal Party strategy was ‘put Labor last because they’re corrupt’. Well, people could say ‘so are you’.

“It really punches a big hole in their strategy that was targeted towards people who will go to vote for minor parties and harvesting their preferences ahead of Labor in critical seats.”

– AAP



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