Minister for Women Marise Payne has refused to say whether she thinks a Liberal candidate who has been forced to apologise multiple times for controversial comments about transgender people should be removed from the campaign.
Katherine Deves was hand-picked by a panel including Prime Minister Scott Morrison to be the Liberal candidate for the seat of Warringah in Sydney, currently held by independent MP Zali Steggall.
She has since had to apologise on multiple occasions after a number of deleted social media posts resurfaced, including ones where she likened her lobbying to stop transgender athletes from competing in women's sport to standing up against the Holocaust.
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Mr Morrison, who said he was "very pleased" to have played a role in appointing her as a candidate, has stuck by Ms Deves despite calls from the NSW Liberal treasurer that she's "got to go".
On Sunday, Senator Payne was asked multiple times whether she thought Ms Deves should be dropped as a candidate.
"Ultimately that is a matter for the Liberal Party here in New South Wales," she said.
"I don't agree with the remarks she made, I've made that explicitly clear.
"Ms Deves has apologised for those remarks, withdrawn those remarks and that's the most important thing as she continues there as the candidate in Warringah.
"She has made that apology clear."
Senator Payne was also asked whether the controversy surrounding Ms Deves was a good example of why candidates should be pre-selected and vetted, instead of through a process of "captain's pick".
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"They are matters for the organisation," she said.
Senator Payne said the Liberal Party reserves its right to disendorse candidates.
Minister for Superannuation Jane Hume echoed Senator Payne and said Ms Deves was an "excellent" candidate for Warringah.
"Katherine Deves has very strongly held opinions on an issue that's important to a lot of Australians," she said.
"The language she used was inappropriate and she said it was inappropriate and has withdrawn those comments."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese described the issues surrounding Ms Deves as an example of the NSW Liberal Party "tearing itself apart".
"This is a civil war that has been going on within the branch of the NSW Liberal Party for over a year now," he said.
"And what's extraordinary is that Katherine Deves has been hand-picked by the Prime Minister.
"The Prime Minister earlier this week said he shared Ms Deves's values in endorsing her yet again."[Federal election: Ask us a question or share your story]