Scott Morrison’s former Liberal pre-selection opponent Michael Towke has revealed more deets about the allegations that the PM used Towke’s Lebanese ethnicity against him.
ICYMI, both Towke and another Liberal Party insider Scott Chapman signed statutory declarations. Those declarations claim that back in 2007 Morrison used Towke’s Lebanese background to cast doubt on whether the Liberal Party could win the Cook electorate with him as the candidate.
The Cook electorate includes Cronulla. The alleged incident occurred in the wake of the 2005 Cronulla Riots.
In the statutory declarations, Towke and Chapman alleged that Morrison raised doubts about Towke’s Catholic identity. Morrison allegedly claimed Towke was “a Moslem” (sic).
Morrison has since denied those claims.
Now Towke has given his first on-air interview about the whole affair. He appeared on The Project where he was interviewed by Waleed Aly.
Towke said that when the story first broke, he hadn’t planned on weighing in. He’d hoped the story would go away.
“I have moved on,” he said.
“But the more that this is unfolding, and just watching the Prime Minister’s very non-credible responses, I’ve chosen now to not remain silent anymore.”
In the interview Towke confirmed that Scott Morrison came last on that 2007 pre-selection ballot. He also described the “feeling of euphoria” he had when he was selected as the Liberal candidate.
“It wasn’t lost on me that I would have been the first Australian of Lebanese heritage to be a federal member of Parliament on the Liberal Party side,” Towke told Waleed Aly.
“That’s a bit of history there which they stole from me.”
PART 1/3: In an exclusive interview with Waleed Aly, former Liberal Michael Towke speaks for the first time since he accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of racism in a pre-selection battle 15 years ago.#TheProjectTV pic.twitter.com/inZjsPgCaE— The Project (@theprojecttv) April 6, 2022
According to Towke, there were two set of allegations made by the Liberal Party about him.
He claimed the private allegations the Liberal Party accused him of included that he owned and operated brothels, that he was involved in a criminal syndicate and in the Cronulla Riots.
Then there were the allegations the Liberal Party publicly published. Those included claims Towke breached the Liberal Party rules and exaggerated his academic qualifications and military record.
Towke then said there was a “political gun” to his head. He said it was what led him to stand down and back Morrison in the ballot.
“They … put a political gun to my head and said they would ruin me. I would never work again if I didn’t withdraw from the pre-selection and throw my votes in behind Morrison,” he alleged.
“The hardest pill to swallow was to throw my weight behind the most meritless candidate – I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I wiped the floor with him.”
Perhaps the spiciest bit of the interview was when Michael Towke told Aly that he’d received texts from a current Cabinet minister about the sitch.
“I have text messages from a current Cabinet minister saying ‘I believe you. You just have to be careful’,” Towke claimed.
Now, it’s important to note here that the existence of those text messages have yet to be independently verified. Waleed Aly confirmed at the end of The Project that he hadn’t seen the messages.
But Towke’s allegations about the messages are pretty fkn wild.
“This person is a minister of the Crown. This person I have never had contact with before,” he said.
“This person sent me a text message and it is like, ‘Hey, Michael this is XYZ, obviously in confidence, along those lines. Just want you to know I believe you. Do what you feel you need to do. Just be careful.’ That’s pretty sound advice, right?”
Towke also said people “associated with the Prime Minister were circulating or trying to get a story going that I was associated with Neo-Nazis”.
Towke said a number of “respectable Canberra journalists” had been warning him to “watch his back”.
The Project reached out to the PM’s office for comment on the claims made by Towke in Wednesday’s interview. It said Scott Morrison had already answered the allegations.
We contacted the PM's office, and they declined to comment, saying he had already answered the allegations.— The Project (@theprojecttv) April 6, 2022
So there you have it. Another episode of #AusPol spicier than Married At First Sight.
You can watch the full interview here.