LIBERAL Party upper house candidate for Western Victoria Region, Aaron Lane, has withdrawn from the race after his online comments were uncovered and widely interpreted to be homophobic and misogynist.
Western Victoria Region candidates for the Greens and Labor slammed Mr Lane’s comments and the Liberal Party itself for selecting him.
Mr Lane announced his resignation as a candidate just after 2.30 pm on friday after The Australian newspaper linked him to the tweets in a story published early that morning.
Liberal Party Victoria state director Damian Mantach made a statement on Mr Lane’s behalf.
“The Liberal Party acknowledges that the comments made by Mr Lane on social media are hurtful to many people and are entirely unacceptable,” he said.
“While Mr Lane has unreservedly apologised for his comments, the Party believes it is important to send a strong message to the community that this behaviour will not be tolerated.”
The Australian obtained a series of short messages or ‘tweets’ that were published on the social media website Twitter by Mr Lane with an account he has since closed.
This account was active before Mr Lane was preselected as candidate and he used a separate account for campaigning.
The tweets referred to former federal Labor leader Simon Crean as a “giant C’’ and repeatedly used the word “f******s”, a derogatory term for homosexuals.
After the story spread to other media, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine told ABC Radio that Mr Lane should step down as a candidate.
“There’s no place in my team, or in the Coalition team, for this sort of behaviour, and these sort of comments,” Dr Napthine said.
Following his resignation, Mr Lane phoned in live to ABC 774 Radio and said it had been a “difficult day”.
He regretted the comments that me made “from a private account” and “in the context of an extended conversation”.
After the interview, Mr Lane send out a written statement:
PERSONAL STATEMENT: AARON LANE
Earlier today, The Australian reported on some inappropriate and offensive tweets that I made around two years ago. Some of the tweets have been stripped of all context. The tweets had been deleted from my account a long time ago. There has been no suggestion of any wrongdoing or impropriety during my time as an endorsed candidate.
I am sure everyone has said things that, on reflection, we wish we had not said – regardless of the context. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the language I used in these remarks. I am not a homophobic person. I regret using this juvenile language and understand the offense that it has caused. I apologise unreservedly.
This afternoon, I made the decision to resign as a Liberal candidate for Western Victoria region at the upcoming Victorian election. This was an extremely difficult decision. However, as a committed member for the Liberal Party for over a decade, I chose to put the Party’s interests above my own.
I know that the best thing for Victoria would be the re-election of the Napthine government, and I do not want distract from that.
Mr Lane, aged 25, is an Institute of Public Affairs research fellow and Deakin University lecturer who was preselected in May this year for to replace retiring MP David Koch.
As the former number two candidate for the Liberals, Mr Lane was judged by Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber as almost certain to win before news of his offensive comments broke.
Mr Lane holds a Masters degree in divinity as well as the right to practise as a solicitor in Victoria.
The Australian alleged that one of his tweets stated “Just because he didn’t (ejaculate) doesn’t mean you’re still a virgin, sweetie.’’
The Spectator phoned Western Victoria Region Coalition MPs Simon Ramsay and David O’Brien but all had their mobiles switched off at the time of publication.
David Koch is retiring from the Western Victoria Region seat that Mr Lane hoped to win and said “no comment” when contacted by The Spectator.
Western Victoria Region MP Jaala Pulford said Mr Lane’s resignation as a candidate because it “closed the chapter” on “a bad day for gay youth”.
Ms Pulford said Mr Lane was a “disgrace” and “his comments were not just insensitive but dangerous” because “same-sex attracted youth in rural areas had a higher rate of self harm and suicide ideation”.
“The Liberals shouldn’t have preselected Mr Lane,” she said.
“I don’t think people in the communities of western Victoria would want Mr Lane representing them in Parliament,” she said.
“I would expect there to be a spectrum of views within political parties, and there should be, but these comments demonstrated an extreme intolerance of diversity.”
Ms Pulford referred to a 2013 study by the National LGBTO Health Alliance that found lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in rural areas have the higher rates of suicides, suicide attempts and self harm than average.
Greens candidate for Western Victoria Region, Lloyd Davies said Mr Lane’s resignation was an “appropriate thing to do given the comments that he made”.
Mr Davies said Mr Lane’s candidacy “just goes to show how out of touch the Liberals are.”
“It’s extremely disappointing that Mr Lane was put forward to potentially represent the people of western Victoria,” he said.
Mr Lane visited Hamilton on July 2 for the release of the ‘Great South Coast Regional Growth Plan’ with Nationals Candidate for Lowan, Emma Kealy, retiring Lowan MP Hugh Delahunty and Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
He also attended a fundraising event run by the Hamilton Branch of the Liberal Party in May and posed for photos with federal Wannon MP Dan Tehan, Western Victoria Region MP Simon Ramsay and Hamilton Branch president Hugh Koch.