Hastie ‘pretends independence’ from PM

Labor has accused the Liberals’ candidate in the coming Canning by-election of trying to run his campaign independently of his party’s federal leadership.

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Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has also talked up the local credentials of Labor’s candidate Matt Keogh at a media conference held outside the Armadale hospital where he was born.

She said Mr Hastie, a former SAS captain who recently moved from defence housing to the Canning electorate, was “trying to make out that he’s running to be the president of the Republic of Canning, that he’s going to have nothing to do with Tony Abbott and his team in Canberra”.

“But we all know that Andrew Hastie will have to defend all of the captain’s picks that Tony Abbott’s team are having to defend,” she told reporters.

“You’ve got in Andrew Hastie a candidate who’s saying what happens in Canberra doesn’t matter to the people of Canning.”

Ms Plibersek reiterated that winning Canning was going to be a tough ask for Labor considering the double-digit margin secured by the late Don Randall, a Liberal who held the seat for 15 years.

“Even with a brilliant candidate, a local boy, it still is very difficult to expect a swing of around 12 per cent,” she said.

“We’ll give it a red hot go.”

She declined to comment on the second controversy Mr Hastie has been forced to defend from his service days, this time regarding the accidental shooting of two Afghan boys.

It comes after he responded to reports a member of his team had cut the hands off a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, which, according to Mr Hastie, was for identification purposes.

In both instances, Mr Hastie says he was not involved and was cleared of any blame.