NSW Treasurer Matt Kean has responded to a senior Liberal colleague who accused him of “treachery” after he reportedly told a journalist to ask tough questions to then-prime minister Scott Morrison about a Sydney candidate.
A senior NSW Liberal minister has accused another colleague of “treachery” after he secretly encouraged a journalist covering the Federal Election to pepper then-prime minister Scott Morrison with questions about Katherine Deves.
Treasurer Matt Kean sent text messages to one female political reporter on Mr Morrison’s campaign bus to spur on the questioning about handpicking the mother-of-three to contest the Sydney seat of Warringah, The Australian reported.
Ms Deves’ campaign was fraught with controversy after her inflammatory comments on transgender athletes and children were unearthed on Twitter.
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Mr Kean allegedly pushed the journalist to quiz fellow NSW minister Natalie Ward – who was standing alongside Mr Morrison to announce an extension of the Epping Road Bridge in Sydney’s north – on Ms Deves’ appointment.
“We definitely pushed it along. I tried to get Natalie on it – and she seemed keen to chat but Morrison ended the presser and she was forced to leave,” the reporter wrote back to the Treasurer in a private message on Twitter, the publication said citing photos.
Transport Minister David Elliott slammed his colleague over the revelations he was allegedly trying to undermine the Coalition less than two weeks before polling.
“Matt Kean’s behaviour is nothing short of treachery and will be repaid in kind. I’m disgusted,” he told Ben Fordham on 2GB on Monday.
“It’s the sort of thing I have come to expect … from a certain former Liberal PM (Malcolm Turnbull).”
Mr Kean said he did speak to the journalist over text and they “exchanged some light-hearted banter” but he denied pushing them to ask questions.
The NSW Treasurer responded to Mr Elliott’s comments from the Northern Rivers town of Lismore on Monday where he announced $132m in funding for the State Emergency Service (SES) in the budget alongside his boss NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.
“David Elliot’s got my phone number, I haven’t spoken to him about that. That’s a question for him,” Mr Kean said when quizzed about the “treachery” remarks.
“What I’m here to do today is to talk about the community up here in Lismore, the community in the Northern Rivers, who have just seen some of the worst floods that we’ve seen in our history.”
Mr Perrottet was also forced to address the infighting in his party when a reporter asked if he was “concerned” about the war of words.
“My expectation is ministers are focused every single day on the great people of NSW, that’s exactly what we are doing today with the Treasurer announcing record funding for the SES and that’s my focus,” he said.
The NSW Premier added there “would be words from time to time” and refused to be drawn in on siding with either Mr Kean or Mr Elliott.
“This is a distraction from what is our focus and every single day I’m focused on making sure the people of NSW are set up for a brighter future,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Words can be said from time to time but ultimately it distracts us from our core responsibility.”
One day earlier, Mr Kean appeared on Sky News Australia on Sunday where he claimed the messages to the young journalist were nothing more than “light-hearted banter”.
“I wouldn’t normally comment on private conversations but … all I’ll say is a reporter that worked in the NSW gallery contacted me about a political matter, I responded with some light-hearted banter,” he told Political Editor Andrew Clennell.
“The suggestion I was asking the reporter to ask questions of anyone in particular is just false.”
The NSW Treasurer also declared in the interview he “worked hard” during the campaign to ensure Mr Morrison would retain government.
“I fundraised, I campaigned in various seats. In fact, the party asked me to write letter to constituents in a whole range of seats,” he said.
“I wanted to see the Morrison government re-elected and I worked very hard to make it happen.”