Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has defended embattled federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne, saying he was not going to criticise him for the language used in text messages to criticise ALP colleagues and female staffers.
“It was a private text message. If you can say hand-on-heart, or Richard can or I can that you haven’t used bad language in private, good luck to you. But that’s not the reality for most adult Australians,” Mr Dutton told Nine on Friday.
The texts were made public on Thursday, after Mr Byrne agreed to help corruption investigators looking into the Victorian branch stacking saga, and included various profanities and disparaging remarks about Labor colleagues.
Mr Dutton said that he liked Mr Byrne and every adult Australian had used “bad language.”
“I think he has done a great job in the intelligence committee. He has a sensible perspective in dealing with counter-terrorism laws,” he told the Nine Network.
“He is a subject matter expert and he has done very well in that committee.
“Frankly, I’m not going to criticise him for the language. It was a private text message. If you can say hand-on-heart … that you haven’t used bad language in private, good luck to you but that’s not the reality for most adult Australians.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles also weighed in on the involvement of federal Victorian MP Anthony Byrne in the controversy that has ensnared Leader Anthony Albanese.
“Horror week is a pretty good description,” Mr Marles told Nine’s Today show on Friday.
“Albo has obviously spoken to Anthony.”
It was revealed on Friday that Mr Byrne sent text messages criticising two women linked to Labor.
In one text sent to Victorian MP Adem Somyurek, The Australian reports, the MP attacked ex-Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard staffer Jamila Rizvi describing the now political commentator as “an awful piece of work”.
The other woman criticised was former Victorian Labor MP Judith Graley.
While agreeing the comments were a disgrace”, Mr Marles defended Mr Byrne’s political record saying he was a “wonderful” servant of his community and the party.
“I’m not about to defend what he said but I absolutely think that Anthony Byrne has a very important role to continue to play in politics,” he said.
Mr Albanese is under pressure to discipline Mr Byrne, who sits on the powerful parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Mr Somyurek earlier this week lost his ministership in the wake of the branch stacking scandal after he was recorded in footage aired by Nine boasting of his political influence.
Some of the covert recordings were captured in Mr Byrne’s office and his phone calls were also recorded.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Mr Albanese must decide whether Mr Byrne should remain as deputy chair of the intelligence committee.
But Mr Albanese has so far said Mr Byrne would remain in the position.
Mr Dutton said Mr Byrne had done a good job on the committee.
“He has a sensible perspective in dealing with counter-terrorism laws. He is a subject matter expert and he has done very well in that committee,” he told Nine.
Mr Byrne is also feeling the heat over the revelation of earlier text messages after Mr Albanese on Thursday described them as “completely unacceptable and inappropriate”.
“Somyurek has selectively released a hand-picked selection of my text messages to him sent over two years just hours after I made a public statement that I had contacted authorities and would assist with their corruption investigations into him. That speaks for itself,” Mr Byrne said on Thursday.
Mr Somyurek told reporters outside his home he had learned the art of “branch work” from Mr Byrne.