Prominent Victorian Liberal Party figures deny sending racist, homophobic texts calling people ‘fag Catholics’, ‘curries’
Paul Mitchell has been accused to sending racist messages calling Indian people “curries”. (Facebook)
Victoria’s two most recent Liberal premiers have called for a pair of prominent party figures to quit following allegations they used racist and homophobic comments including referring to Indians as “curries”.
- Two Liberal Party figures are under fire for calling people “curries” and “fag Catholics”
- Paul Mitchell and Marcus Bastiaan deny sending the messages
- Two former premiers have called for the pair to quit
On Thursday the Age newspaper reported leaked text and Facebook messages allegedly from administrative committee members Paul Mitchell and Marcus Bastiaan, who are accused of using bigoted language, including refering to a group of “fag Catholics”.
Less than a month after the Liberals’ election drubbing, the leak is another embarrassing insight into the party and has prompted the two most recent Liberal premiers Jeff Kennett and Ted Baillieu to call for the pair to quit, urging reform.
“Every single day there is something that deters people from the party, whether it’s from Canberra or Victoria, it’s got to change,” Mr Baillieu told the ABC.
In one exchange that reportedly occurred between April 2017 and the lead-up to the party’s State Council in April this year, Mr Bastiaan talks about “fag Catholics” who are “so far in the closet, if they end up coming out they will blow up big time with lots of secrets”.
Mr Bastiaan strongly denies sending the message referencing “fag Catholics” and believes the messages may have been doctored or sent as part of a factional brawl.
Messages reported by The Age allegedly show Mr Mitchell referring to Indian members as “curries”. Mr Mitchell also denies sending the messages.
Mr Kennett said the language was inappropriate and did not belong in the Liberal Party.
“These comments are inappropriate and are not keeping with the foundations of the Liberal Party, these comments are intolerant, and they should follow Michael Kroger out the door,” Mr Kennett said.
Liberal Party distances itself
Over recent years Mr Bastiaan has become a polarising figure in the party, with some accusing him of being a branch stacker.
He openly admits recruitment drives targeting conservative churches and community groups. His group dominated party elections at this year’s council.
However, he stood down from his positions earlier this year. Mr Mitchell remains on the admin committee.
Marcus Bastiaan has denied sending text messages calling people “fag Catholics”. (ABC News: Four Corners)
At both a state and federal level the Liberal party is struggling to shake off perceptions that it is intolerant of women, the LGBTQI community and migrants.
Thursday’s allegations have added to the post-election despair of many state Liberals.
“You wonder how low we can get, and then it just gets deeper,” one said.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien noted that the pair had denied the views but said there was no room in the party for such views that were completely unacceptable. He said he would raise the issue with new party president Robert Clark.
“The Liberal Party has got no time for people who hold those sorts of offensive and outdated views,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I don’t think that people who hold those views have any place in senior positions in the Liberal party .”
Calls to clear ‘children’ from party committee
Federal Minister Kelly O’Dwyer, who holds the Melbourne seat of Higgins, said she was encouraged that new party president Robert Clark might act as a broom for the Liberals.
She was disgusted by the pair’s alleged language.
“I don’t think that those comments have any place in a modern Liberal Party and I think that those individuals who have been named need to examine their behaviour and need to examine their next steps,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“We need to make sure that people have confidence in not only our elected officials but also in our party officials. We are a modern Liberal Party.”
An angry text message exchange between Mr Bastiaan and Mr O’Brien is also detailed where Mr Bastiaan accuses Mr O’Brien of briefing against him during a spat over a heated Young Liberals presidency vote — Mr O’Brien was the patron before resigning in disgust over procedures at the ballot.
Senior Victorian Liberal Party MP Kelly O’Dwyer says voters need to have confidence in party officials. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
“Your petty resignation was premature and speaks volumes about your insecurities. Next time pick up the phone and get the whole story before dropping a bucket of shit on the Party,” Mr Bastiaan’s text says.
The new Opposition Leader said he and Mr Bastiaan had “never seen eye-to-eye”.
There is a growing push for the administrative party to be overhauled, with critics pointing to the pair’s lack of experience.
“It will be terrific when we clear all these children off the administrative committee,” one senior figure said.
Many in the party believe there will be more stories to surface about the group, with others speculating the leak was the result of a split among a brand of new conservatives in the party.