Anthony Albanese
The prime minister has taken aim at the coalition over a tweet about a mistakenly arrested detainee. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics (general)

Detainee tweet ‘shooting from the hip’: PM

Tess Ikonomou March 1, 2024

Anthony Albanese has urged voters in a by-election to turn their backs on the Liberal Party over their “fear campaigns” following the wrongful arrest of a released immigration detainee.

People in the Victorian seat of Dunkley will head to the ballot box on Saturday, following the death of Labor MP Peta Murphy.

The prime minister took aim at Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for the coalition’s attack on the government over a detainee who was mistakenly arrested and charged by Victoria Police on Thursday.

“I’m waiting for Peter Dutton to take responsibility for the debacle yesterday where he made completely false accusations against ministers,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Frankston.

“That’s what this is, an opportunity to send a message to Peter Dutton, they need to do better, they need to stop with the fear campaigns based upon half bits of information.”

Two days out from polling day, Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley made a post on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, telling people to vote against Labor if they had a “problem with Victorian women being assaulted by foreign criminals”.

Mr Albanese slammed Ms Ley for keeping the post up online, despite the police rectifying the blunder.

“I find it extraordinary that Ms Ley has refused to delete that tweet,” he said.

“If you are just negative, if you just run fear campaigns, if you don’t worry about the facts … you just shoot from the hip.”

When called on to delete the post by a Labor minister, Ms Ley replied: “As a woman I am not taking a backward step on this and I’m calling it out.”

A number of the released foreigners from immigration detention are convicted murderers and sex offenders.

Rural Australians for Refugees President Paul Dalzell said asylum seekers and those fleeing from persecution should never be treated as political footballs by those holding public office.

“These comments have consequences for how people are treated in communities around the country,” he said.

“Australia is not upholding its duty of care to protect refugees and people seeking asylum.”

Anthony Albanese and Jodie Belyea
 Anthony Albanese is in Dunkley campaigning with Labor candidate Jodie Belyea ahead of a by-election. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS 

Both Mr Albanese and the opposition leader are in the seat of Dunkley campaigning ahead of the vote.

The by-election is seen as this year’s first major litmus test for Labor as it heads into an election year.

Mr Dutton said the six per cent margin held by the government was big, but a swing away of three per cent would be a “terrible outcome” for the prime minister.

“In the end, as we know in Victoria here, including here in Dunkley, crime is a huge issue, “he told Sky News.

Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.
 Peter Dutton says a three per cent swing against Labor in Dunkley would be “terrible” for the PM. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

“One of the frustrations I suspect that Victoria Police have got is that their efforts are distracted away from the local response that the community here demands, to apply resources to what’s a monumental stuff-up by the government of releasing 149 hardened criminals, including sex offenders.”

Nathan Conroy, the mayor of Frankston City Council, is contesting the seat for the Liberal Party.

Community leader Jodie Belyea will attempt to hold the seat for Labor.