Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to an outgoing Liberal senator's allegations he is "ruthless", "lacking a moral compass" and a manipulator who uses his faith as a "marketing advantage".
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells - who lost her NSW Senate preselection recently - used a speech to parliament on Tuesday night to provide "clarity and context" on her leader.
"He is adept at running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds, lacking a moral compass and having no conscience," she told the Senate.
"In my public life, I have met ruthless people. Morrison tops the list followed closely by [Immigration Minister Alex] Hawke. Morrison is not fit to be Prime Minister, and Hawke is certainly is not fit to be a minister."
Mr Morrison appeared on radio on Wednesday morning, and indicated her comments were because she had not been preselected to a winnable position on her party's Senate ticket.
"I know Connie's disappointed that on the weekend 500 members of the Liberal Party went to a preselection and they didn't select Connie," Mr Morrison said.
"I understand that and I understand that there are many disappointments in political life.
"When you are Prime Minister, people hold you responsible for many, many things and there are decisions taken over your life as Prime Minister that can lead to disagreements."
"But now after being unsuccessful on the weekend, I understand that she's disappointed and I join a long list of those that she's said these things about," Mr Morrison said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says while the Prime Minister has been quick to point out the need for culture reviews within the Labor Party, he has not addressed issues within the Liberal Party.
"Those people who know Scott Morrison well attest to the flaws in his character," he told ABC News on Wednesday.
"It's extraordinary that a sitting serving senator who's been a former minister, who has served alongside in the ministry with Scott Morrison, says he is unfit to be prime minister. Those comments do say a lot."
In her fiery speech, Senator Fierravanti-Wells also branded Mr Morrison an "autocrat" and "bully" and told parliament he made racist comments during his preselection for the seat of Cook in 2007.
"I'm advised that there are several statutory declarations to attest to racial comments made by Morrison at the time that we can't have a Lebanese person in Cook."
Mr Morrison said her claim was "rubbish".
Pressed on the issue, he said: "It's not true".
She also accused him of going to Labor senator Sam Dastyari to get dirt on Michael Towke after he won the first round of the ballot 84 votes to Morrison's eight.
"This dossier of anecdotes was weaponised and leaked to the media to the point where Towke's reputation was destroyed," Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.
"After the selection, Towke joined my staff, he subsequently also sued the newspapers for defamation. He won his cases, but this was cold comfort. Morrison, his cronies and the Liberal establishment in NSW had destroyed a good young man."
Senator Fierravanti-Wells said Mr Morrison and Mr Hawke had deliberately contrived a crisis in the NSW branch of the Liberal party for a year so they could have their own candidates installed.
"There is a putrid stench of corruption emanating from the NSW division of the Liberal party," she said.
"I am appalled [party president Philip Ruddock] has allowed Morrison to bully his way to a situation where the next election has been put at risk all to save Hawke's career."
Mr Hawke was facing a preselection challenge for his own seat of Mitchell but was re-endorsed.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells said the numbers behind her preselection loss told her that her push for "democracy with the NSW division was certainly not welcome" because factional operatives can't control pre-selection.
"For years, figures in the Liberal Party have denied the existence of factions and criticised the ALP. This is hypocrisy, given that the Liberal Party is now no different to the Labor party," she said.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells said the actions of Mr Morrison and Mr Hawke had led NSW Liberal members to lose faith in the Prime Minister's leadership and the party.
"They want to leave. They don't like Morrison and they don't trust him," she said.
"They continue to despair at our prospects at the next federal election and they blame Morrison for this."
Australian Associated Press
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