Federal government minister Kelly O’Dwyer has said her colleagues in the Liberal party are perceived as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers” by the general public, according to a report.
The Herald Sun newspaper reported that O’Dwyer, who is Industrial Relations Minister, made the comments to colleagues at a “crisis meeting” held on Monday to discuss the state election in Victoria last weekend.
According to the report, Ms O’Dwyer told the room that perception “is not who we are as Liberals” but the “crusades” of some conservative MPs had reinforced the view that the party was homophobic and anti-women.
O’Dwyer reportedly told her colleagues that they need to stop being hijacked by “ideological warriors” who were recruiting members from conservative religious groups on social issues.
The Victorian election on Saturday saw Daniel Andrews’ Labor government returned to office in a landslide result, dramatically increasing their parliamentary majority.
Coalition MPs fear a similar swing would mean electoral wipeout at the upcoming federal election, to be held in the first half of next year.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed the report on Tuesday, saying that wasn’t O’Dwyer’s view.
“That’s not our view and it’s also not Kelly’s view that’s what the Liberal party is about,” the Prime Minister said.
“What we’re doing is getting on with the job of delivering the services that are necessary for families, and particularly women in families, to make the choices they want to make.”
Responding to the report, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Herald Sun his colleagues “had a good, honest discussion about lessons to be learned” from the Victorian election.
“As a group we will continue to be focused on delivering for our local communities,” he said.