PM defends against accusations of hypocrisy in ‘big money’ jab at independents

Prime Minister Scott Morrison denies his attacks on independent candidates are hypocritical after accusing some of being a front for Labor and backed by big money.

A growing movement of independents are challenging moderate Liberals in Sydney and Melbourne, running on a climate agenda and pushing for a national anti-corruption commission.

Liberal frontbenchers have criticised independent candidate Monique Ryan, who is running against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in his inner-Melbourne seat of Kooyong, for being a member of the Labor party a decade ago.

Ms Ryan said she joined Labor in 2007 and quit in 2010 because the party was not doing enough to address climate change.

Mr Morrison said he was calling independents out when questioned over whether people could change their political stripes, such as former Liberal MP Craig Kelly quitting the party and joining Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

“What it means is they’re representing themselves as something they’re not and I’m calling them out,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“They have been called out by their own histories. This is not an independent movement, this is a political party and it’s funded by donors like other political parties.”

Mr Morrison has criticised independent campaigns for planning to accept money from environmental action fund Climate 200, which financially supports independent candidates running on a climate action agenda.

“They’re pretending to be voices of a local community,” he said.

But he wouldn’t be drawn on whether the “backed by big money” attacks by Liberals is hypocritical in light of the party receiving donations from big companies, banks, pharmaceutics companies, mining and resource groups.