Dutton’s ‘disgraceful attack’ on amputee
THE battle for the marginal seat of Dickson, in Brisbane's outer north, has already turned bitter as incumbent Peter Dutton claims Labor's Ali France is using her amputated leg "as an excuse".
Ms France, 45, lost her leg in May 2011 when an out-of-control car driven by an elderly man pinned her against another vehicle outside Brisbane's Highpoint Shopping Centre.
She was pushing her son Zac in a stroller when the car crashed into her. Surgeons had to remove the leg above the knee, but they saved her life after the collision severed the femoral artery.
The former journalist underwent a number of surgeries and lives in Brisbane - a stone's throw from Dickson where she plans to unseat the Home Affairs Minister.
She claims she has not moved to the electorate yet because she has not found a suitable home that caters to her requirement for wheelchair access.
Bill Shorten has taken aim at Mr Dutton in a press conference this afternoon - labelling his comments "disgusting".
"She (Ms France) is a strong woman," he said. "And, by the way, she knows that Peter Dutton's making these comments because he's scared of her.
"What else could motivate it? 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.
"She never wanted the car crash. She never wanted the amputation. But she's a strong person. We want more diversity in our Parliament.
So, why is it that the very - a mother who lost her leg protecting her child is now subject to a personal attack by a scared Government minister? I think that is disgusting."
Mr Dutton's comments have been labelled a "disgraceful attack" by Labor's national president Wayne Swan.
"When asked to condemn Dutton's comments on ABC 24 this morning, Scott Morrison flat-out refused," Mr Swan said.
"This is the man that 45 Liberal MPs did make Prime Minister. Scott Morrison needs to condemn these comments and make Peter Dutton apologise today."
He said she was using her disability "as an excuse for not moving into our electorate" and that "a lot of people have raised this with me".
"If you are serious about representing an area, you live in that area, and using her disability as an excuse for not living in our area is really making residents angry," Mr Dutton said.
A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton's office told news.com.au this morning he was simply "reflecting the views raised with him by his constituents".
"Minister Dutton was repeating the views and concerns about the Labor candidate, raised with him by constituents - that is, 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," the 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 Dutton's office did not respond to a question about whether Mr Dutton's comments were insensitive.
Ms France earlier said she had "searched high and low for a wheelchair-accessible house in the electorate, but anyone who has a disability like mine will know that it is almost impossible to find suitable homes … without stairs".
She said she would move to the electorate "if" she wins the seat at the May 18 election.
"If I am fortunate enough to represent the people of Dickson, I will have to buy a home and renovate it so that it is accessible," she said.
"Unlike my opponent who has nine houses, one of which is in the electorate, I have just one house that has been built to accommodate my disability."
The seat of Dickson is held by the Liberal Party by just 2 per cent.
News.com.au has reached out to Ms France for comment.