Ruling party candidate quits Australian campaign over anti-Muslim posts

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten shake hands before the first leaders forum at the Seven West Media Studios in Perth, Australia, on April 29, 2019. (AAP Image/ The West Australian POOL, Nic Ellis/via REUTERS)
Updated 03 May 2019
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Ruling party candidate quits Australian campaign over anti-Muslim posts

  • In her posts, Jessica Whelan called for a referendum to ban immigration of “filthy Muslims”
  • Whelan is running for the lower house of parliament from the island state of Tasmania

SYDNEY: Another candidate for Australia’s governing Liberals was forced to stand down over anti-Muslim comments Friday as the party struggles to fend off charges it harbors right-wing extremists.
Jessica Whelan became the third Liberal candidate to quit the race for May 18 elections in the past three days over racist or homophobic social media posts.
Whelan, running for the lower house of parliament from the island state of Tasmania, initially said the posts, which included references to “filthy Muslims” and called for a referendum to ban Muslim immigration, had been doctored by hackers.
But after screenshots of additional anti-Islam posts emerged in the Australian press overnight, Whelan withdrew from the race early Friday.
The move came after the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, were forced to drop two other candidates in the key state of Victoria on Wednesday after they were found to have posted anti-Islam or homophobic messages on social media.
The incidents provided new ammunition to opposition parties’ charges that the Liberals have become dominated by extremists since party hard-liners ousted moderate prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last August, putting the more conservative Morrison in power.
“The Liberals have been forced to dump another one of its extreme right-wing candidates,” trumpeted Bill Shorten, leader of the main opposition Labor party, which is leading in opinion polls.
Morrison denied that Whelan’s views reflected a broader far-right agenda for his party.
“Her views were her views and they do not represent the views of the party I lead,” he said.
But Labor has also been hit by controversy as both major party campaigns are roiled by social media posts made by their candidates, sometimes years earlier.
One Labor candidate dropped out of the race earlier this week over posts deemed anti-Semitic, while Liberal leaders demanded on Friday that Shorten sack another Labor hopeful for posting rape jokes and other sexist comments.
Luke Creasey, a 29-year-old school teacher running for office in the Victorian capital of Melbourne, posted the comments in 2012 and Shorten defended him on Friday, saying the candidate regretted the posts made when he was 22.
“He has apologized deeply and he certainly doesn’t hold those views now,” Shorten said, adding, “Jessica Whelan said what she believes now (and) tried to cover it up.”
In an increasing fiery campaign, both parties are learning the value of vetting candidates even in long-shot races where they stand little chance of taking office.


Bolsonaro takes on Norway for whaling, but bungles it

Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
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Bolsonaro takes on Norway for whaling, but bungles it

  • Bolsonaro took to Twitter to criticize the Scandinavian country for its whaling practice and post spectacular — albeit misleading — images
  • Bolsonaro has been taking digs at Norway since the country announced that it was blocking €30 million of subsidies to Brazil, accusing it of turning its back on the fight against deforestation

OSLO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday responded to Norway’s decision to halt its forest protection subsidies, taking to Twitter to criticize the Scandinavian country for its whaling practice and post spectacular — albeit misleading — images.
“Look at the killing of whales sponsored by Norway,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.
The post includes a video and photographs of a spectacular whale hunt, where mammals in the shallow waters of a bay are slaughtered by people wading on shore, armed with hooked knives. The whales’ blood turns the waters red.
However, the images, reportedly taken on May 29 in Norway, illustrate a “grind,” a type of pilot whale hunt practiced exclusively in the Faroe Islands — a Danish territory in the North Atlantic.
Norway is one of the few countries in the world that authorizes commercial whaling, but the whales are hunted individually, at sea from a ship, and with grenade-mounted harpoons.
“We can confirm that the video/the photos are not from Norway,” the Norwegian fisheries ministry told AFP in an email.
“Our whale hunt takes place from ships at sea,” he said, arguing that the Norwegian practice was “sustainable.”
Bolsonaro was ridiculed on social media for the mix-up.
“Haha what a stupid president Brazil has! This is NOT from Norway! We don’t kill whales like that. Do your homework to get respected! ‘Fake news’ as Trump would have said,” wrote one Twitter user.
“False information is a crime Mr.President,” wrote another.
Bolsonaro has been taking digs at Norway since the country announced last week that it, like Germany, was blocking 30 million euros ($33 million) of subsidies to Brazil, accusing it of turning its back on the fight against deforestation.
Norway has been the single largest donor to the Amazon Fund for forest protection, giving almost 830 million euros since its creation 11 years ago.
Oslo said Brazil, under Bolsonaro’s leadership, “no longer wishes to stop deforestation” and said it unilaterally “broke the agreement” it had on the Amazon Fund.
Bolsonaro reacted immediately and angrily.
“Norway, isn’t that the country that kills whales up there, at the North Pole? And that produces oil too? That is not at all a role model to us. Let them keep their money and let them help Angela Merkel reforest Germany,” he said.