AN automated phone message attacking Indi Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella has fanned a blaze of accusations and counter-claims among candidates.
Mrs Mirabella immediately went on the offensive over the message, which was sent to hundreds of homes across the electorate on Thursday night.
“The Labor independent alliance is well and truly alive in Indi,” she said yesterday morning, pointing her finger at Cathy McGowan as a Tony Windsor-backed independent.
The 35-second message includes audio sourced from previous comments by the now retired Mr Windsor about Mrs Mirabella being deserving of the Federal Parliament’s “nasty prize”.
It included his comment: “The people of Indi, just have a look at your representative and see how much better it could be.”
Mrs Mirabella’s response led to Labor Indi candidate Robyn Walsh’s new campaign manager demanding she apologise to Ms McGowan and other candidates.
Lauren McCully said it was “purely utter nonsense” that Ms McGowan was in any way linked to the message.
“That is just Sophie Mirabella scaremongering,” she said.
“Cathy McGowan and no other candidate has anything to do with this, it’s come from the ALP secretariat and the comments made by Sophie Mirabella are totally and utterly incorrect.”
Mrs Mirabella told The Border Mail “60 or so” people called her office on Thursday night in disgust at the phone message, which she had not heard herself.
She said such a tactic was a great reminder “of how destructive” that alliance had been to the nation and Indi.
Mrs Mirabella said she was not personally offended by the tactic.
“When you stand up for the things that you believe are right, people will disagree with you and sometimes take a personal dislike,” she said.
Ms McGowan said she would not call on Mrs Mirabella to apologise “because I think people will make their own judgments on it, quite frankly”.
“This is how the major parties play politics, the community’s over it and they’ll demonstrate with their feet in how they vote next weekend,” she said.
Ms McGowan said she had been indundated by people questioning her about “this really weird phone call” and “why would Labor be doing that?”.
“It makes no sense to them,” she said.
Ms Walsh was told about the phone message by her husband on Thursday night just as she was about to go into a Victorian Farmers Federation forum in Wangaratta.
“I had no idea of what he was talking about,” she said.
The first impression he got was that it came from the Liberal Party, but then a McGowan supporter from Yea called him and let him know it was from Labor.
“It was nothing that was authorised by me, nothing that I was aware of,” Ms Walsh said.