Startling claims have emerged that Liberal Party candidate for Indi, Sophie Mirabella, “pushed” her political rival Cathy McGowan in public at the opening of a nursing home facility in Benalla on April 15.
The allegation was published in local newspaper the Benalla Ensign on Wednesday.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for independent MP Ms McGowan told The New Daily that “an unfortunate incident had occurred” between her and Ms Mirabella at the event.
“Ms McGowan requested a photo be taken with visiting Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt,” the spokesperson said.
“Ms McGowan said the Liberal candidate [Ms Mirabella] intervened to prevent the photo being taken.”
Ms McGowan and Ms Mirabella had been attending the opening of the Alice Goulding Wing at Cooinda Village aged care facility on Friday, April 15.
Ms Mirabella denies the allegations.
“I emphatically reject reports I pushed Cathy McGowan,” she tweeted on Thursday, April 21. “Reporter did not even bother 2 call me. A sad return 2 nasty tactics from my opponents.”
In a statement, she added that it was “extremely disappointing that the journalist at no time sought to contact me or check the facts or seek a right of reply”.
“I am currently investigating my legal remedies and those available through the Australian Press Council,” she said.
“The article represents a new low and a sad return to nasty tactics from my opponents.”
The New Daily contacted Ms Mirabella for further comment but did not receive a response.
The original report by former ABC reporter Libby Price in the Benalla Ensign claimed Ms Mirabella was not happy with Ms McGowan’s photo opportunity.
“The former member for Indi and now Liberal candidate for the seat, Sophie Mirabella, took exception to the current Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, asking to have her photo taken with Mr Wyatt in front of the Cooinda plaque commemorating the opening,” the article said.
“Mrs Mirabella very publicly pushed Ms McGowan out of the way to obstruct the photo being taken.”
Ms Price, the editor of the newspaper, said she stood by the story. She said the incident was witnessed by a number of people and she independently confirmed it took place with four sources.
“I was hesitant to report it but felt it was in the public interest for people to know this sort of unacceptable behaviour had occurred.”
The New Daily contacted Ms Price for further information but she declined to comment.
The reported incident is the latest in an unusual and controversial history involving Ms Mirabella.
Tension between Ms Mirabella and Ms McGowan had been existent ever since the 2013 federal election.
The independent Ms McGowan stunned Australia when she removed Ms Mirabella from her seat of Indi by a reported margin of close to 300 votes.
Ms Mirabella is re-contesting that seat at the upcoming 2016 federal election.
Arguably Ms Mirabella’s most controversial moment came when she stood in front of a derogatory sign labelling then Prime Minister Julia Gillard the “bitch” of former Greens leader Bob Brown.
She joined then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in front of the sign which was raised at an anti-carbon tax rally in at Parliament House in Canberra in 2013.
Earlier in April, a report in News Corp by political journalist Samantha Maiden claimed Ms Mirabella approached another journalist to have a heated exchange.
According to the report Ms Mirabella “hunted down” The Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen because she was unhappy with comment Ms Albrechtsen made about her.
Mirabella grilled over hospital claims
Meanwhile, during a heated debate between the former Indi MP and Liberal candidate on Sky News on Thursday night, Ms Mirabella claimed her election loss had caused the Abbott government to rescind on a $10 million promise to Wangaratta Hospital.
“I had a commitment for a $10 million dollar allocation to the Wangaratta hospital that if elected I was going to announce the week after the election,’ she told a forum hosted by Sky News in Wangaratta.
“That is $10 million that Wangaratta hasn’t had because Cathy (McGowan) got elected.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten on Friday said it was a “staggering revelation” and called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to clarify Ms Mirabella’s comments to the public.
“I do not believe that what Sophie Mirabella and the Liberals have done in the last term is ethical,” he said.
“I believe it smacks of almost political corruption … it is not the Australian way to act like a banana republic, to reward your mates and punish the people who choose to disagree with you.”
– with ABC