CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia has cut ties with a third candidate within a week because of offensive social media posts, potentially hurting his conservative government's bid for re-election this month.
Ms Jessica Whelan on Friday (May 3) announced she was withdrawing her candidacy for the seat of Lyons in Tasmania after a series of anti-Islamic remarks were revealed to have been posted on her Facebook page.
A separate social media scandal later in the day saw a candidate from the opposition Labor party withdraw from the election race.
Ms Whelan's decision to withdraw came after the ruling Liberal-National coalition's campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham said the government had decided to "take steps" against her.
"Clearly these posts were inappropriate, and the Liberal Party was not aware of their existence before they were reported," Ms Whelan said in her resignation letter.
Earlier this week, two other Liberal candidates were dis-endorsed - one also for anti-Muslim comments, and another for a homophobic social media attack on a party colleague.
The revelations come just days after a poll showed the government narrowing the gap against the Labor opposition, setting up a dogfight in the final weeks of campaigning before the May 18 election.
Labor leads the Liberal-National coalition 51 per cent to 49 per cent, according to the Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper, in from an eight-point margin in March.
The Labor Party, led by Mr Bill Shorten, on Friday saw its candidate for the seat of Melbourne quit after misogynist and pornographic posts were found on his social media account.
With the five-week campaign past the halfway mark, both major parties are attempting to win over undecided voters.
While some Labor policies such as tougher action on climate change have resonated with a majority of voters, Mr Morrison has attacked Mr Shorten's push to redistribute wealth; and the government is vowing to implement a raft of income tax cuts should it win a third term.
"We have taken action on the issue," Mr Morrison told reporters when asked about Ms Whelan on Friday.
The racist comments were views "that I don't share, that I don't accept and I won't stand for", he said.