Canberra Liberals’ leader Alistair Coe has admitted there was a “breakdown” in the party’s vetting system after Peter McKay was disendorsed as a candidate for his comments about Indigenous acknowledgement of country and a homosexual “bias” in ACT Policing.
The vetting process for Mr McKay – who replaced Kurrajong candidate Vijay Dubey after he was dumped in July – was different from those who were preselected at the end of last year, Mr Coe said.
The original 25 candidates were all vetted both internally by the Liberal Party and by an external vetting agency. Region Media understands that Mr McKay was not subject to the same external process as he had previously stood as a Liberal candidate.
“There has been a breakdown in the system, that is obvious. It is very regrettable; I wish this had not happened. I wish the offence had not been caused,” Mr Coe told ABC Radio.
“There are some issues with the vetting process – I was not aware of these comments. I was not aware that this was [his] view.
“It is not good enough, it is disrespectful, it is not up to community standards, it is not up to the Canberra Liberals’ standards and it is not up to my standards.”
Mr McKay – who was also a Canberra Liberals candidate in 2016 – condemned the ACT Government’s adoption of Acknowledgement of Country in his submission to the religious freedom review in 2018.
“The government’s adoption of animistic religious practices is to be condemned. The welcome to country ceremony does not accord with aboriginal practice and is a misrepresentation,” Mr McKay wrote in his 2200-word submission.
“The last one I attended included the acknowledgement and worship of aboriginal ancestors. This is similar to a number of animistic religions around the world.”
Mr McKay also singled out Chief Minister Andrew Barr – Australia’s first openly gay head of government – when criticising how authorities handled an attack on the Australian Christian Lobby’s office in Deakin in December 2016.
“In the case of the ACT all same-sex advocates are not the same,” he wrote.
“The man that used six gas bottles to bomb a secluded Christian organisation in Canberra had worked as an advocate in the USA yet the within 24 hours of the attack the ACT Police influenced by the homosexual Chief Minister and the strong lesbian influence in the ACT Police (yes, I could provide some names) dismissed the attack on religious thought by describing the cause as a mental health issue,” he wrote.
Responding to the comments, Mr Barr said the selection of people like Mr McKay highlights the values of the Canberra Liberals.
“He is not the only candidate that hold views like that and so to the extent that his candidacy and his views now get a public airing, and give people an understanding of what underpins the Canberra Liberals’ approach to public policy, approach to minority groups is pretty alarming,” he said.
“This is a candidate whose values, whose stated opinions on those issues and others – a quick Google search will identify some quick extreme ultra-conservative views on many issues – reflect the rank and file of the Canberra Liberal party and what has happened to what once was a liberal party is now an ultra-conservative party.”
However, this was rejected by Mr Coe who said Mr McKay’s submission and views led to his prompt and decisive action to demand his resignation.
“His comments and the sentiments he has expressed are not consistent with my views nor with the Canberra Liberals which is why we have made a decision that he will no longer be a candidate for the Canberra Liberals at the election,” he said.
“I very much believe in an inclusive Canberra, one that values everybody. I have taken decisive action and we will make sure that we will do better in the future.”
When asked whether Canberrans could have confidence is the Liberals’ vetting process, Mr Coe said “the Canberra community can be very confident that when a candidate does not meet Canberra Liberals’ standards, does not meet Canberra community standards, or does not meet my standards, they will not be in my team”.
The Canberra Liberals will run a replacement candidate, who will be announced in the upcoming weeks, Mr Coe confirmed.