Weeks after apologising for falsely swearing to have lived in her electorate for a decade, a rookie MP has watered down her retraction and revived questions about her truthfulness with a third account of her ties to her electorate.
MP Felicity Wilson told Liberal preselectors for the plum seat of North Shore she had lived in the electorate for 10 years since 2005 in a statutory declaration that was also her nomination form.
But she apologised amid a media storm last month after Fairfax Media revealed electoral and Liberal party records put her at addresses outside the electorate in 2005 and at points across another five years with another three unaccounted for.
A chastened Ms Wilson submitted a revised statutory declaration shortly before a by-election last month and said: “I should have been more careful with my words and I’ve made an apology for that.”
But in her first major speech to the Liberal party members whose support she will need for preselection next year, Ms Wilson suggested she was punished for a simple rounding error.
“I had spent closer to nine years in the electorate … not 10,” Ms Wilson said in a speech to a private event on Monday, according to a record of the meeting made by one attendee and verified by another. “I had lived at 17 addresses in 17 years [and..] I had made an error.”
Records only definitively put Ms Wilson inside her electorate’s boundaries at points across only four years and she has repeatedly declined to provide her residential history or say how long she has lived in the seat.
But Monday’s speech is her third different account of her ties to the electorate in two months.
After Fairfax’s first story, Ms Wilson said she should have said she had lived “in and around” the “North Shore region”, as opposed to the seat of the same name, which encompasses only the lower north shore.
In her maiden speech, earlier this month, Ms Wilson provided another formulation of her residential history, saying she had lived in her electorate for the “better part of a decade”.
Ms Wilson’s ability to win over local branches is critical to her political future after she won preselection by only six votes before the story broke. Afterwards there were widespread reports the party was short on election day volunteers, in a seat that is the historic home of the Liberal party.
Ms Wilson also implied the Herald had placed her under undue pressure to respond to questions for a story published the Thursday before a Saturday by-election.
“On 6pm on Wednesday night I got a call from a [reporter, who]??? wanted a quick answer,” she said.
But Ms Wilson was first called before 1pm that Monday, records confirm. She received followup inquiries on Tuesday and, finally, via a Liberal party spokeswoman about 3.30pm on Wednesday with an additional query about her having told former Prime Minister John Howard she cast her first vote in a federal election for him.
She later apologised when it was revealed she had been enrolled to vote in Marrickville in the 2001 election, on the other side from Mr Howard’s then north sydney electorate.
Fairfax Media contacted Ms Wilson to ask if she had further misled Liberal preselectors.
She requested a meeting, which Fairfax agreed to on the condition that all discussions were on-the-record and for quotation, but did not show up.
Ms Wilson was dubbed “Duplicity Wilson” by talk radio king Alan Jones and “Fibbing Felicity” by Labor leader Luke Foley.
On her oath and in her original preselection form, Ms Wilson said she had first moved to the electorate at Waverton in 2005. But in that year she had recently registered to vote at an address in North Epping, about 30 minutes’ drive away from Waverton.
A member of the public reported Ms Wilson to the North Sydney police, they said they would decline to investigate because a single typographical error on the form rendered it unenforceable as a legal document.
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