Wild COVID comment derails campaign

A Liberal candidate for the WA state election is being dogged by comments her husband made about COVID-19 being part of God’s “reset” for humanity.

A Liberal candidate for the West Australian state election is being dogged by comments her husband made about COVID-19 being part of God’s “reset” for humanity, but says she is a woman with her own views.

Burns Beach candidate Trish Botha and her husband Paul Botha were the founding ministers of Mindarie-based One Church Perth in 2005 but she has not worked for the evangelical organisation for more than five years.

That hasn’t stopped reporters asking about her partner’s views, with his sermons posted on the church’s subscription-only YouTube page espousing mistrust for the science of coronavirus.

“The power of God brought this coronavirus to bear and the power of God is going to shift nations and shift the church and shift families and shift people from one direction to a completely new direction,” he reportedly says in one sermon.

But Ms Botha, who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in the 2019 federal election, told The Sunday Times: “I am a woman with my own views. I have made that point clear in the past and I want to make it clear again.”

In her Senate pitch, Queensland-born Ms Botha listed her values, taught to her by her mother, as including freedom of speech.

She is being sought for comment.

It’s not the first time the embattled Liberals have hit headlines over the views of its candidates, and their partners, ahead of the March 13 poll.

Last month, WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup was forced to tell Baldivis candidate Andrea Tokaji to withdraw from the race after it emerged she wrote an opinion piece linking the 5G network to COVID-19, telling reporters “dangerous conspiracy theories” had no place in the party.

Soon after, he refused to let Victoria Park candidate Amanda-Sue Markham respond to a question from the media about her pastor husband Campbell Markham saying gay people could be “cleansed” and pornography viewers would go to hell.

Meanwhile, the latest Newspoll published in The Australian suggests the Liberals could be reduced from 13 seats to just two in the lower house in a humiliating, history-making election wipe-out.

Mr Kirkup laughed when asked about the poll, saying such a result would lead to a “dangerous” imbalance of power.

He has warned that Labor had a “plan for total control of the West Australian parliament, without any checks or balances”.

“They want to be a single party with single control, absolute power,” the WA party’s youngest ever leader told reporters in Port Hedland on Saturday.

“I think that’s the real risk for Western Australia if the Labor Party got their way.

“Polls will come and go – we are 21 days away from the next election – and that’s what we are solely focused on at this point in time. We’ve seen in the past how unreliable those polls are.”

Premier Mark McGowan also said polls had been shown to be “wildly inaccurate”.

“I just take polls with a grain of salt,” Mr McGowan told journalists ahead of WA Labor’s official campaign launch on Sunday.

“Everyone needs to take a cold shower.”

Mr McGowan’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis has seen him soar in popularity – with at least one voter inking a tattoo tribute to the former navy lawyer on his leg.

But the father of three insists Labor will “have to work hard for every vote”.

Mr McGowan, 53, has been emphasising Mr Kirkup’s tender age of 33, saying the Liberals represent a “very, very risky, inexperienced alternative”.

“If you want a safe, stable, sensible government, support my government,” the Premier said, adding the opposition would “bankrupt the state”, referring to its refusal to have its election commitments independently costed.

Mr McGowan brought out star power this weekend on the eve of the campaign launch, announcing a pledge to spend $100 million on a waterfront film studio development in Fremantle, flanked at a press conference by West Australian entertainer Tim Minchin, British comedian and writer turned WA resident Ben Elton and Hollywood actor Kate Walsh.

Even the press release came with supporting praise from actor Hugh Jackman.

Mr Kirkup was unimpressed, saying Labor sought to “buy voters off” with a film studio while planning to close Fremantle port.

“While I support more investment in culture and the arts, I don’t think that’s a long term plan for the diversification of our economy,” he said.

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