Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has savaged Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a late-night Senate speech, describing him as an autocrat and a bully with no “moral compass” and someone who uses his faith for marketing purposes.
She said he was not fit to be a prime minister. Mr Morrison is expected to call the federal election for late May as early as Sunday. He will be the first prime minister since John Howard to serve a full term and seek re-election.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells will be leaving the Liberal partyroom after being dumped from a winnable spot last weekend in favour of Jim Molan, a Liberal Senator and retired army major general.
The NSW branch has been embroiled in a bitter row over Mr Morrison’s decision to handpick candidates in key seats, instead of members being allowed to select them in preselections.
The political machinations – largely carried out by the Prime Minister’s factional ally, cabinet Minister Alex Hawke – are aimed at centralising Mr Morrison’s power over the Liberal Party and elected MPs.
As Mr Morrison watched Treasurer Josh Frydenberg deliver the federal budget on Tuesday night, Fierravanti-Wells unleashed in the Senate.
“Morrison is not fit to be prime minister,” she said. “And Hawke certainly, is not fit to be a minister,” she said.
She said Mr Morrison had a long history as a back-stabber.
“His actions conflict with his portrayal as a man of faith; he has used his so-called faith as a marketing advantage,” she said.
“We learnt the leader his Hillsong Church group was a mentor to Morrison … Houston recently stood down as head of Hillsong because he was charged with sexual offences,” she said.
“It is noteworthy that in the past, Houston flew top cover for his paedophile father,” she said, in comments protected by Parliamentary privilege.
Mr Houston resigned as a global senior pastor after he was found to have breached Hillsong’s moral code in his behaviour with two women.
He had previously stepped aside from church leadership roles to fight charges of concealing information that may have been material to the prosecution of his father Frank Houston.
Mr Morrison, who praised Mr Houston in his maiden speech and attempted to have him invited as an official guest at a state dinner at the White House in the US in 2019, immediately sought to distance himself from his mentor, saying he had not been a member of Hillsong in 15 years.
“Morrison is not interested in the rules-based order, it is his way or the highway – an autocrat, a bully who has no moral compass,” she said.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells also claimed to be aware of several statutory declarations testifying that a candidate originally beat Mr Morrison for preselection in Cook before it was overturned.
“I’m advised that there are several statutory declarations to attest to racial comments made by Morrison at the time that ‘we can’t have a Lebanese person in Cook’,” she said.
The Prime Minister’s office was contacted for comment.
Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.