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‘They’re quite angry’: Peter Dutton doubles down on attack on rival as campaign gets nasty

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Ms France, a former journalist, was pushing a stroller containing her son through a car park in 2011 when an out-of-control car slammed into her, pinning her against another vehicle.

A few days later she awoke in intensive care to be told that while her son Zac and survived, her left leg had been amputated from just above the knee.

She was told she was unlikely to ever walk again.

Two-and-a-half years later she managed to walk although at home she uses a wheelchair to get about.

Mr Shorten said Ms France used $100,000 of her compensation money to renovate her house, which sits seven minutes from the Dickson electorate boundary, improving access to areas such as the kitchen and shower.

Labor candidate for Dickson, Ali France, has accused Peter Dutton of mudslinging rather than focusing on issues of importance to local voters.

Labor candidate for Dickson, Ali France, has accused Peter Dutton of mudslinging rather than focusing on issues of importance to local voters.Credit:Attila Csaszar

Through a spokeswoman, Mr Dutton stood by his original claims about Ms France and her residence.

“Minister Dutton was repeating the views and concerns about the Labor candidate, raised with him by constituents, that she doesn’t live in the electorate and has told people locally that even if she wins the seat she won’t move into the electorate,” a spokeswoman said.

“Dickson constituents believe Ms France’s refusal to live in the electorate, even if she won the seat, is more about her enjoying the inner city lifestyle as opposed to her inability to find a house anywhere in the electorate.”

Mr Morrison denied Mr Dutton had made a political attack and also claimed that the minister had been “taken out of context”.

Senior Liberal frontbencher Mathias Cormann, who backed Mr Dutton in his failed leadership bid last year, also backed the minister through a spokeswoman.

But Mr Shorten labelled Mr Dutton’s comment as disgusting, saying they showed the minister was scared of Ms France, who bookmakers has as favourite to win the seat.

“She knows that Peter Dutton’s making these comments because he’s scared of her. What
else could motivate it?” he said.

“She doesn’t want people’s sympathy. The idea, though, that any Australian with a disability would rather use their disability than not have the disability is a fiction.

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“She never wanted the car crash. She never wanted the amputation. But she’s a strong person.”

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek accused Mr Dutton of having a “peaheart”.

“What’s his excuse for spending more time in his Gold Coast beachside mansion than right here in Dickson, than in the electorate?” she said.

Ms France, who was joined in Dickson by Ms Plibersek, said Mr Dutton was more worried about her than the issues of voters in the seat.

“Having a disability is not an excuse. It is a reality. It is a reality that many hundreds of thousands of Australians have to deal with every single day – and I am no exception to that,” she said.

“And while Peter Dutton is attacking me, he’s not focused on the real issues that are impacting the people that he represents. The people of Dickson really want us to be focused on those issues and not on this type of mudslinging.”

People With Disability Australia used social media to express its concern about Mr Dutton’s comments, saying they demonstrated “a lack of understanding about the routine discrimination faced by people with disability” for appropriate housing.

Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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