Labor has angrily denied suggestions that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten orchestrated a series of attacks against Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s family in the media.
Mr Abbott’s family was thrust into the spotlight this week, with criticisms made about his wife’s charity work and allegations of favouritism involving two of his daughters.
The prime minister accused some media outlets for “dirt digging”, but one of his senior government ministers has now blamed federal Labor leader Bill Shorten for orchestrating the “repugnant” attacks.
Health Minister Peter Dutton accused Mr Shorten of withdrawing from the media at the same time his office “quite deliberately” launched these attacks against the Abbott family.
“I believe very strongly that this is an orchestrated attack by Bill Shorten and it needs to stop,” Mr Dutton told Network Ten on Sunday.
Mr Shorten’s office has rejected the allegations, calling them “wrong, hurtful and completely without foundation”.
“Bill has made his position very clear that families should not be dragged into the political debate,” a spokesman for Mr Shorten told AAP in a statement.
“This shows the government will stoop to any low it can to distract from its budget failure.”
AAP understands the prime minister’s office was contacted by Mr Shorten on Wednesday when questions started being asked about a $60,000 scholarship awarded to Mr Abbott’s youngest daughter Frances.
It’s understood Mr Shorten told the office Labor was not behind the story and believed families should be kept off limits.
A subsequent story carried complaints about the appointment of Mr Abbott’s eldest daughter Louise to a government job in Geneva.
Yet another story published on Sunday aired criticisms from Julia Gillard’s partner Tim Mathieson about Margie Abbott’s commitment to charity.
A spokeswoman for the prime minister declined to comment on Mr Dutton’s allegations, saying the stories about the Abbott family were of a personal nature and a distraction from the budget.