A Labor candidate has quit over old bullying claims, throwing the ALP’s plans to win the marginal Victorian seat of Frankston into disarray.
The party now has to find someone else to take on Liberal-turned-independent MP Geoff Shaw in the November state election.
News Corp Australia had published court documents showing ALP candidate Helen Constas, a lawyer, was the subject of a bullying complaint when she was chief executive at the Peninsula Community Legal Centre.
“This matter is very distressing for me and my family,” Ms Constas told reporters on Thursday as she announced she would not contest the November 29 state poll.
“It is also a distraction from Labor’s campaign to ensure the Napthine government is held to account.”
Ms Constas said the bullying complaint had been resolved and a confidentiality agreement made it impossible for her to “actively defend my reputation”.
It is the latest in a tumultuous period for the seat of Frankston, with its sitting MP, Mr Shaw, now serving a suspension over misuse of his parliamentary car and fuel card.
For months Labor had used the controversy surrounding Mr Shaw, who holds the balance-of-power, to cause political pain for the Napthine government.
On Thursday Labor leader Daniel Andrews faced his own Frankston problem, denying he was involved in efforts to have Ms Constas preselected and noting candidate vetting processes did not raise a red flag.
“The first I became aware of these very serious matters, the WorkCover issue and court case, and I want to stress these are serious matters, was yesterday afternoon,” Mr Andrews said.
“It is not a great day and I’m not going to sugar coat this.”
Mr Andrews message for Frankston voters was “I’m disappointed, I’m sorry and we will do better”.
The margin for the far southern Melbourne seat is 0.4 per cent after a boundary redistribution, according to ABC election analyst Antony Green, whereas the Liberals’ hold was at 2.07 per cent after the 2010 election.
Government frontbencher Matthew Guy said Mr Andrews could not hide from his earlier support of Mrs Constas.
“How can this man be the premier if he can’t get these decisions right, when he himself set the high jump bar for standards very high?” Mr Guy said.