The endorsement of Liberal candidate Katherine Deves for the seat of Warringah in Sydney’s Northern Beaches has caused wide ruptures across the Coalition in recent days.
The PM has doubled down on his support of Deves, in light of her abhorrent comments against the transgender community, including that “half of all males with trans identities are sex offenders” and suggestions that trans people are “surgically mutilated and sterilised”. The comments made by Deves on her social platforms only recently, have since been deleted.
Morrison leant on comments made by Tony Abbott, the former member for Warringah, who praised Deves as “tough” and “brave” and said he “can’t understand the pile on from people who claim to be supporters of women’s rights”.
Deves herself, lashed out at critics, writing to the party that she’s not going anywhere.
“My opponents, parts of the left media and twittersphere have been unrelenting in calling for me to be disendorsed, because of past statements,” she wrote in an organisation-wide email, Nine newspapers reported.
“I have been bullied in the most vile way and received death threats.”I’m not going anywhere, as the Prime Minister said yesterday.”
But others in the party resolutely disagree, with a growing string of LNP members speaking up on the issue over the weekend and calling on Morrison to dump his controversial “captain’s pick”.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean told The Guardian on Friday that Deves’ comments were archaic.
“This is not the 1950s. This is not an intolerant society. These kinds of horrendous views are not OK, and I’m sure the voters of Warringah agree. Time for the Liberal party to beat them to it and disendorse her.”
Kean’s subsequent post on Twitter was then liked by Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate narrowly running against independent Allegra Spender in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs’ electorate of Wentworth.
While Liberal MP for the seat of North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman, reportedly asked the Prime Minister’s office to take action and dump Deves ahead of the election.
Other high profile Liberal Ministers, like newly endorsed prospective Health Minister Anne Ruston and Minister for Women, Marise Payne condemned Deves’ comments but stopped short of calling for her to be dumped.
But while Matt Kean made the assumedly obvious point that “there is no place in a mainstream political party for bigotry”, it seems the PM has a very different perspective.
In fact, Morrison in this case, is leading with it.
He knows full well that pulling from the Trumpian handbook of division and hate is an effective strategy when you’re close to the wire. He knows that he lost crucial favour with religious groups when he failed to pass the Religious Discrimination Act earlier this year, and this might win him back some ground. And he knows that Warringah, headed up by popular independent Zali Steggall, is as good as a closed shop anyway.
Standing strong behind Katherine Deves on this blowup is ultimately a strategy for the Prime Minister, never mind the hundreds of trans youths who stand to be gravely impacted by this furore, nor the lives potentially lost. He is willing to watch his party implode for a few extra votes.
While Morrison and those too meek to rise against him at the moment are claiming that diversity of thought is always a good thing, they should remember that unity is key. Backing Deves’ harmful stance as a “brave” one, while dressing bigotry up as feminism is shameful in the extreme.
But should we be surprised? Not in the slightest.