The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:57 :52 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women and the Leader of the Government in this place a question in relation to racism in South Australian politics.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: There is a bipartisan view in South Australia that we need more women in parliament. Like any other candidate, female candidates must be selected on their merit and their capacity to serve their constituency. For that reason, I was extremely pleased to see, at South Australia's recent election, some high quality candidates from both sides of politics, in fact all sides of politics.
As members would be aware, I worked closely with the Liberal candidate for Elder, Ms Carolyn Habib. Carolyn is a vivacious and hardworking young woman and she is passionate about her community. She has served diligently on the Marion council and her work with Re-Engage Youth Services is dedicated to providing a better future for those more vulnerable youth.
In The Advertiser on 14 March, David Penberthy described Carolyn as 'perfectly decent'. It was an article which responded to one of Labor's final Elder campaign pieces. This piece was a flyer asking the question, 'Can You Trust Habib?' As observed in the same article by Penberthy, this untarnished Liberal candidate had 'by dint of her surname become the subject of a button pushing smear'.
I will not take up members' time describing the flyer—I am sure all members have seen it—but I think it is important to reiterate in this explanation some remarks made by senior journalists and politicians about this flyer. David Penberthy went on and commented that 'its clear intent appeared to suggest that this mysterious Habib could be anything from a people smuggler to a fundamentalist imam who dreamt of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Ascot Park'.
Graham Archer, the executive producer of Today Tonight, commented that 'just the way this thing was structured, there was obviously intent behind it, using just her surname, using that sort of imagery, there was intent behind it and to pretend there wasn't and say all the facts were correct…I think that's just an insult to the electorate'.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said that the campaign tactic had no place in Australian politics. The federal member for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler, on 891 radio said that the image was confronting. South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said that the advertisement was 'repugnant dog-whistling' and thought that most reasonable people would look at the leaflet and find it either malicious or reckless.
By contrast, Premier Weatherill dismissed it as a pretend defence to distract from the real issues, and Treasurer Koutsantonis believed there was no racial intent. My question is: does the minister share the position of those eminent journalists and politicians quoted above, that the flyer in question was, indeed, a racist attack on the Liberal candidate for Elder?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 16:00 :47 ): No.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 16:00 :50 ): Supplementary question: if the minister does not believe that it is a racial attack on the candidate for Elder, does that mean that this type of material will be acceptable and that we will see it in future Labor Party campaigns?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 16:01 :06 ): This is just an act of sour grapes. They lost the election. It was an unlosable election and they lost, and this is nothing but sour grapes. I reject the assertions that the Hon. David Ridgway makes. Everyone is entitled to their point of view. Journalists and other members of the public are entitled to their point of view. I do not share the points of view that the Hon. David Ridgway quoted. I do not share those views.