Tony Abbott has pleaded with Liberal Party supporters in his old seat of Warringah to stand by controversial candidate Katherine Deves.
In a video sent to party members, the former prime minister described Ms Deves as someone who “deserves to be supported”.
“The more I see of Katherine Deves the more impressed I am with her courage, with her common sense, with her decency and with quite frankly her capacity to win this seat back for the Liberal Party,” Mr Abbott said.
“So I really do urge all Warringah Liberals to get behind our candidate. She is our candidate, she’s doing a good job, and she deserves to be supported.
“Whatever faults we might see in the selection process, we’ve got to do this, to get behind her for our community, for our party, for our country, and to help give the Morrison government the victory that our country needs.”
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Ms Deves was hand-picked by Scott Morrison to run for Warringah and has come under fire during the campaign for a series of social media posts describing transgender children as “surgically mutilated and sterilised”.
Ms Deves also invoked the Holocaust many times in her thousands of incendiary online posts.
But on Tuesday she sensationally poured fuel on the fire and walked back her previous apology.
Instead of apologising for her remarks, Ms Deves said she was sorry if anyone was offended.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly defended his captain’s pick.
Mr Abbott’s call to arms comes as the Prime Minister visited the Tasmanian marginal seat of Bass to unveil a $55m mental health pitch.
Addressing reporters in Launceston, outspoken Liberal MP Bridget Archer called for “respect” when discussing transgender Australians after disclosing her own mental health battles.
Ms Archer said that there were “important discussions” that needed to be had, but they required kindness.
“We should do so understanding that people are vulnerable and marginalised, and I don’t think it matters who people are. We can all do better,” Ms Archer said.
When Ms Archer was pressed further, Ms Archer said she would not argue Ms Deves should be censored, but doubled down on a bid for kindness.
“I think the Prime Minister understands this as well – is that when we’re talking about people, whoever they might be, we should always seek to do that in a way that is respectful and not damaging to people’s mental health,” Ms Archer said.
According to LGBTIQ+ Australia, 48 per cent of transgender people aged 14-25 have attempted suicide, while three quarters of those over the age of 18 have considered attempting suicide.
More than 85 per cent of trans men, 76.1 per cent of non-binary people, and 68 per cent of trans women aged 14-21 have reported self harming in their life.
Transgender and gender-diverse people aged 14-25 are more than seven times more likely to be diagnosed with depression, and five and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety.