A Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) has refused to apologize for mistaking her Asian Australian opponent with another politician during a radio interview.
Liberal MP Fiona Martin and her opponent for the Reid seat, Federal Labor candidate Sally Sitou, appeared in a 2GB radio interview that later turned into a heated debate between the two candidates on Wednesday.
The debate intensified when the two candidates started questioning each other’s birthplace, where they were raised and where they are currently living. Only Sitou currently lives in Reid, which is not a requirement for a candidate.
During the exchange, Martin accused Sitou of running in Reid because she had lost preselection in Fowler.
“You found an opportunity and you couldn’t run in Fowler. Kristina Keneally kicked you out of Fowler too,” Martin said.
Sitou, however, was reportedly not considered for preselection in Fowler, whereas Asian Australian candidate Tu Le was in September 2021. In a tweet on Wednesday, Sitou clarified that she never ran for a seat in Fowler, as she and her family are residents of Reid. She continued, “My opponent either has me confused for a different Asian-Australian, or she is deliberately misleading people. Either way, she should apologize.”
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Responding to the controversy, Martin said in a Facebook post that she would “never direct a racial slur at anyone,” explaining that her grandparents were Greek migrants.
“I am the granddaughter of Greek migrants, and I grew up and went to school in Reid,” Martin said.
“My record makes clear I would never direct a racial slur at anyone. There is no place for racism in Australia and it should be called out. I won’t be distracted by desperate political games played by the Labor Party and its seat-shopping candidates.”
Martin also reportedly explained that she had referenced the Labor Party’s consideration of Sitou as a candidate for Cabramatta in 2018, for which she ultimately did not run. Kristina Keneally was also never considered for that seat.
“I’m disappointed that Fiona Martin is doubling down on her accusations about me,” Sitou added in another tweet. “Campaigns are stressful and she made a mistake. I’d just like her to apologize for mistaking me for a different person. The people of Reid deserve better than this.”Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Martin’s comment and response to the controversy in a statement to reporters, saying, “Dr. Martin has already made statements on that issue today, and no, that wasn’t the case. She made that statement clear.”
Sitou described Morrison’s statement as “frustrating and disappointing” in a tweet on Thursday.
“I’m going to spend the next nine days talking to voters about why we desperately need a change of government in this country,” she wrote.