Australia

Dutton apologises for accusing Labor candidate of using her disability as an 'excuse'

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A week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched the royal commission into the abuse of disabled Australians, Peter Dutton has apologised for accusing his rival Labor candidate of using her disability as an "excuse".

After a barrage of criticism from Labor politicians, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has apologised on Saturday for accusing Labor candidate Ali France of using her disability as "an excuse" not to live in her electorate.

"I apologise to Ms France for my comments yesterday," the Member for Dickson wrote on Twitter.

"My argument with the Labor candidate is about how our respective policies would affect the people of Dickson."

Earlier on Saturday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was "shocked" that at the time Mr Dutton had not apologised - and that the Prime Minister had not forced him to. 

"Peter Dutton was in three votes shy of becoming the Prime Minister of Australia. I think Mr Morrison is acutely aware of that," he said during a press conference on the Central Coast.

"I can only conclude he is a hostage of Peter Dutton, which is why he hasn't [got] him to apologise."

Labor MP Kristina Keneally pointed to Mr Morrison's announcement of the royal commission into the abuse of people with a disability last week, during which he shed a tear and said disabled Australians "deserve our respect".

Labor's candidate for the federal seat of Dickson, Ali France, is seen posing for a photo at Bald Hills, north of Brisbane, Friday, August 24, 2018. Ms France will contest Peter Dutton's seat of Dickson. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING
Ali France, Labor's candidate for Dickson, says she will buy a house and renovate it to be disability-friendly if she wins.
AAP

"But this week, Peter Dutton launches a mean, low, despicable attack against a woman with a disability," she said.

"Mr Morrison has said nothing. You cannot stand in the courtyard and shed a tear for people with a disability and then the very next week turn a blind eye to a low, despicable attack by Peter Dutton against Ali France."

Ms France is competing against Mr Dutton for the marginal Queensland seat of Dickson, but lives approximately 5 kilometres outside the electorate because she said she could not find a wheelchair accessible house closer. 

The Labor candidate had her leg amputated after she was hit by a car outside a shopping centre in 2011.

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Tanya Plibersek slams Dutton over diability comment
Tanya Plibersek slams Dutton over diability comment

But Mr Dutton told The Australian that plenty of people in the electorate had a disability and were allegedly "quite angry" at Ms France.

"Having a disability is not an excuse, it is a reality," Ms France, a former journalist and palliative care worker, told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.

"It is a reality that many hundreds of thousands of Australians have to deal with every single day."

It's not the first time the Morrison government has come under fire from opposition politicians for disability issues, following the emotional royal commission speech.

Last week, on the day the royal commission was announced, Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John slammed the government for refusing to intervene in the case of a Bhutanese teenager, who is facing deportation from Australia on the basis of his disability.

"On the day that the Prime Minister announced the royal commission, and shed a tear over the experience of his brother-in-law, let us take that emotion that he seems to have recently discovered and apply it to the rest of his goddamn government," Senator Steele-John told SBS News.

"And step one of that is picking up the phone to David Coleman and saying 'what the hell do you think you're doing? Get off your arse and intervene in this case'."

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