After being hand-picked by the Prime Minister to defend a marginal seat on the NSW south coast, Warren Mundine has been told to “go back to where he came from”.
Three months ago, the former Labor national president was formally installed as the Liberal Party’s candidate for the federal electorate of Gilmore.
The decision was controversial because of Mr Mundine’s former association with the Opposition party and the fact that he did not live in area at the time of the announcement.
This week he was criticised for driving a campaign bus emblazoned with a promise to increase the aged pension even though the Liberal Party has no such plans.
The prominent Indigenous figure described the vehicle as the “Mundine mobile of honesty” but Labor candidate Fiona Phillips has called it the “bus of lies”.
“He should take his bus back to the North Shore of Sydney where he is from,” she told WIN News Illawarra on Tuesday.
“He is a phony and he needs to go back to where he came from."
In a statement, Mr Mundine criticised the comments and defended his eligibility.
“This comment is extremely insulting,” he said.
“I’m a member of the Yuin Nation, the traditional owners of the land and sea within the Gilmore electorate. My grandparents were born and married here. My people have lived on Yuin country for thousands of years.
“Like many Aboriginal people, my grandparents and parents often had to move away from their country for work and other reasons. I’ve had to do the same. I’ve lived in many places in my life, half of it in regional Australia.
“I now live in Bomaderry. All of that is irrelevant to my status as a member of the Yuin Nation.
“I’m acknowledged as a member of the Yuin Nation under both traditional law and Australian law. In particular, I’m a voting member of the South Coast People native title claimant group whose application is currently before the National Native Title Tribunal (NC2017/003).
“No doubt Ms Phillips has given an acknowledgment of country before official events.
“I am one of those traditional owners. Fiona did traditional owners great dishonour and disrespect yesterday by ordering one of them to leave their own country.
“Finally, Gilmore is home to many people who were not born here or don’t have ancestors here. All are part of this community.
“I think the people of Gilmore would want more from the person seeking to represent them. No one deserves to be ordered to ‘go back to where they came from’.”
However, Ms Phillips has stood by her comments.
“This has nothing to do with land of the Yuin Nation. Australia is, and always has been First Nations land,” she told The Australian newspaper.
“Mundine has rolled into town straight from Sydney’s leafy north shore, on his big business funded bus of lies. Deceiving pensioners about fake plans to raise the pension.”