AN independent election candidate has accused the Liberal Party of orchestrating a fake poll in a bid to discredit her, a suggestion Senator Mathias Cormann has labelled “completely insane”.
Louise Stewart provided The Weekend West newspaper with data she said was from polling company UComms for ReachTEL in the safe Liberal seat of Curtin, held by former foreign minister Julie Bishop by 20.7 per cent.
The newspaper’s front page reported Ms Stewart had commissioned the research, which pointed to a 20 per cent swing against the Liberals.
But after UComms revealed it had not done the work, Ms Stewart claimed she’d been hoodwinked, insisting the data was emailed to her by a third party and forwarded unverified by her inexperienced campaign team.
She said she contacted Alex Turnbull, the son of ousted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has previously bankrolled campaigns for independent candidates against the Liberals, but he denied involvement.
Ms Stewart said Mr Turnbull had dug up data in a bid to find the culprit and found the email “may have originated from a location close to a senior conservative WA Liberal MP’s office in Perth”.
She has refused to name the MP.
“This is obviously the best way that someone could come up with to damage my reputation,” Ms Stewart said.
“The Liberal Party does have a bad track record of this sort of behaviour.”
Senator Cormann said her suggestions were “preposterous and false”.
He said the bogus poll was clearly designed to help generate momentum for Ms Stewart and urged her to publicly release the email, saying West Australians deserved to know who sought to deceive them.
“If she or anybody else has any evidence that an offence may have been committed they should refer all information they hold to the police.”
Ms Stewart describes herself as Liberal-minded but says she has become disillusioned with the party.