Rumour sends Dutton off half-cocked

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised for mistakenly issuing a statement expressing condolences at the death of former PM John Howard.

Mr Morrison also said he had so far been unable to contact Defence Minister Peter Dutton to tell him to stand down from reacting to the inaccurate news of Mr Howard’s demise.

The Prime Minister’s statement was issued after the Liberal MP for the Victorian seat of Chisholm, Gladys Liu, rang Mr Morrison and other senior cabinet ministers in tears to say Mr Howard had died while on a shopping centre visit to help her re-election campaign (main picture).

“Yes, I and other ministers promptly issued a condolence statement but withdrew it just as quickly when Gladys rang back to say Mr Howard was simply fast asleep,” Mr Morrison said. “It was quite understandable at his age.”

He went on to explain that he had been trying to contact Mr Dutton who himself issued a statement claiming that “the death of our beloved John Howard at the hands of a Chinese operative” was reason enough to launch a military strike against Beijing.

“I’m not sure Peter knows that Gladys is one of ours, so I’ve been trying to get through to him before he does anything silly,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Dutton is believed to have flown to an undisclosed military base to direct invasion plans and is not taking calls.

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Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese has opted for low-key campaigning in his Sydney electorate of Grayndler today.

A Labor Party campaign spokesperson said a planned major policy launch had been postponed in favour of giving Mr Albanese time to catch up on visits to local community groups in his own seat.

“It’s no big deal. Our campaign calendar is by necessity very flexible,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ll now sit down and work out when in the last few weeks of the campaign we’ll  reschedule the launch of our 157-point plan for reviving the national economy.”

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A Melbourne man says he has been the subject of repeated and vicious physical attacks by supporters of his current local federal MP, Tim Wilson.

Leonard Teale Junior (pictured) who lives in the seat of Goldstein, said he had no explanation for the string of attacks on him and his property.

He said he been “roughed up”, had received threatening phone calls, and his house had been vandalised since the start of the federal election campaign.

“It’s a real mystery to me why they’d do these things,” he said.