“I emphatically deny that I was ever a member of the organisation my opponents claim I was a member of,” Cootamundra by-election candidate Dr Jim Saleam has told the Young Witness.
Black and white photos have been given to the Witness by members of the public that show Dr Saleam wearing a Nazi swastika armband at a rally.
Witness readers and opponents of Dr Saleam have accused him of being a member of a Nazi group and of being a white supremacist.
“Myself and another man deliberately appeared at a meeting in February 1975 run by the organisation I am accused of being a member of, we went there for a reason, and we mucked around with those people for about six weeks, and we found out what we wanted to know, the photos have simply no tangible validity,” he said.
“The photos mean no more than say Prince Harry going to a costume party. My opponents are running a smear campaign, and it has no basis in fact. I am one of the nation’s leading theorists on Australian Nationalism, I’ve written a PhD on it, I don’t deny that I am a white supremacist, I am saying to you that I am an Australian Nationalist in the tradition of Henry Lawson.”
But National Party leader John Barilaro challenged both the Labor and Shooters candidates to declare they will put Dr Saleam last on their ballot papers.
“I find the views of all extremists very disturbing, and I will play no role in validating those points of view, and as such, I have directed my party not to preference Dr Salaem in the by-election,” he said.
National Party Cootamundra campaign manager Ross Cadell said he was disappointed to see the Shooters social media calling to put the Nats last.
“Are they seriously saying that this candidate, photographed wearing a swastika and with an extensive history of hate politics deserves their preferences? Are they throwing all pretence of decency aside for the sake of politics? They need to put this guy last,” he said.
The Shooters Upper House MLC Robert Borsak said whilst no final decision had been made on who would get their preferences he had an “expectation that we will be preferencing Dr Saleam behind the Nationals.”