THE Liberal Party candidate labelled by Tony Abbott as having “sex appeal” has made what the Labor Party is calling the biggest gaffe in the 2013 election campaign after linking the issue of asylum seekers to traffic congestion in her western Sydney electorate.
Fiona Scott, who is contesting the marginal seat of Lindsay in this weekend’s federal election, told ABC’s Four Corners that asylum seekers were a particular issue in her division because traffic was overcrowded in the area. Ms Scott stood by her statement when asked to clarify her comments, claiming that large numbers of asylum seekers resulted in pressure on existing infrastructure.
Ms Scott said: “Go and sit on the M4. People see 50 000 people come in by boat; that’s more than twice the population of Glenmore Park (in western Sydney.”
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison defended Ms Scott’s comments, clarifying that she was speaking generally about population pressures rather than drawing a direct correlation. He supported Ms Scott’s claim about the arrival of asylum seekers impacting on her electorate, highlighting the significant number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia under the Labor government.
Mr Morrison said: “The population pressures on western Sydney and in places in Melbourne I think put real constraints on the cost of living, they put real constraints on the infrastructure that people can access and the services they can provide. (Asylum seekers) are principally being released into south-western Sydney, in the Dandenong area of Melbourne and in other places.”
Immigration Minister Tony Burke praised Mr Morrison for his defence of Ms Scott, claiming that it demonstrated Mr Morrison’s credentials as a Liberal Party loyalist. He said Ms Scott’s comments were some of the silliest things said throughout the election campaign during an election debate with Mr Morrison earlier today.
Mr Burke said: “The comments would, I think, rate as some of the silliest of the election campaign, were it not for what Scott had said about (the) boat buy-back. The competition has been fierce. And it’s no surprise given what Scott said himself that he at least feels compelled to defend someone who says something a little bit less extreme.
“There are genuine issues in western Sydney that go to infrastructure, that go to planning … and more specifically with Sydney, of all of our cities, one where we keep putting the jobs at one end of the city and the houses at the other end of the city. But let’s be serious. In a context of the immigration program, where we’re dealing with 12 million people coming in and out every year — this is the cause of traffic?”
Ms Scott was the subject of considerable media attention last month after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott referred to her “sex appeal” in responding to a question regarding her political attributes. Mr Abbott was asked about Ms Scott’s comments earlier today, saying that he accepted the pressures placed on society by asylum seekers.