A former New South Wales Labor frontbench MP has announced her defection to the One Nation party despite once labelling its state leader, Mark Latham, a “buffoon” and saying the far-right party stood for “political opportunism at its worst”.
Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk has announced she will run for the fringe party in the NSW upper house following her defection from Labor in 2022.
Mihailuk said on Tuesday that “the party I joined 27 years ago” had changed and she was concerned NSW would go “woke and broke” under a Labor government.
The move is a marked shift from Mihailuk, who quit Labor after launching a series of public attacks against the Canterbury mayor Khal Asfour – a political rival and Labor’s pick for an upper house spot at the March election.
Mihailuk has previously been a vocal critic of Latham’s, using a speech in parliament in 2017 to criticise comments made by the One Nation leader about “ethnic enclaves” in the western Sydney suburb of Fairfield.
At the time, Mihailuk said One Nation embodied “political opportunism at its worst” and labelled Latham a “buffoon”.
“I am disappointed that somebody who in the past relied on the support of multicultural communities is now a divisive figure,” she said of Latham, referring to his time as the federal Labor leader.
“I would describe this transformation of a former politician as a Shakespearean tragedy.”
In a statement following her defection, Jihad Dib, Labor’s Lakemba MP and now its candidate to replace Mihailuk in Bankstown, said he was “shocked” by the defection to a party he said was “known for its lack of acceptance of cultural diversity”.
Labelling it “heartbreaking”, Dibb said Mihailuk “turned her back on the many communities she once represented”.
“People in our diverse and multicultural community will be bitterly disappointed that she has joined a political party with division and fear at its core,” he said.
“One of the reasons Australia is the best country in the world is our multiculturalism, and you see it right here in Bankstown. To turn your back on this community and join a party that doesn’t believe in those same values is heartbreaking for people who have supported Ms Mihailuk over the years.
“Like so many people, I am shocked by Ms Mihailuk’s decision.
Mihailuk quit the Labor party last year after she used parliamentary privilege to launch a series of attacks against Asfour. In the speeches, Mihailuk made a series of accusations against Asfour relating to the redevelopment of land in the Canterbury area and alleged he had inappropriate links to the corrupt former Labor minister Eddie Obeid.
Last week, Asfour was cleared of any wrongdoing following an independent investigation by the council. He called it a “complete vindication” and blasted the “political witch hunt” set off by the accusations.
In an interview with Seven News on Tuesday, Mihailuk refused to repeat the same allegations outside of parliament.