South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has sacked an SA-Best candidate after a Facebook photo emerged of the man holding his fist to a wax model of pop star Rihanna.
Rhys Adams was on Saturday named and then dropped as Senator Xenophon’s candidate for the Liberal-held SA seat of Finniss after the ABC reported on his Facebook photos, which also showed him groping another waxwork model of Toni Collette in Sydney in 2015.
The caption accompanying the Rihanna photo says “it’s Chris baby” and shows him holding a fist to the wax model. The pop star was assaulted in 2009 by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown.
“(I was) made aware of it this afternoon and sacked him within 10 minutes,” Senator Xenophon told AAP on Saturday, ending Mr Adams’ candidacy just hours after it began.
“I acted immediately because you cannot make a joke about domestic violence.”
In a statement, Mr Adams said the photos showed him “doing stupid things with a juvenile sense of humour”.
“Back then I didn’t take into account those that may be hurt by a what I now reflect on as a very poor-taste joke which certainly doesn’t reflect my mindset or my values,” he said.
“I am certainly sorry for any offence I’ve cause with previous Facebook posts and I wish the SA-Best team the very best going forward.”
Senator Xenophon – whose future was under a cloud due to constitutional questions about his citizenship – announced on Friday he was quitting federal politics to run for his home Adelaide seat of Hartley in the March state election.
The Senate powerbroker also said SA-Best would field candidates in key electorates in the hopes of becoming kingmakers after the March state election.
Despite Mr Adams’ sacking, Senator Xenophon maintained the party’s vetting process for candidates was up to scratch.
“The vetting process is a sound process because people go through extensive questions, police checks, background checks,” he said.
“We already have social media vetting but this was missed. It should not have been missed and the fact it was missed is a very valuable lesson.”
Finniss is held by the Liberal’s Michael Pengilly, who will retire at the next election.
Liberal MP Vincent Tarzia holds the seat of Hartley with a 3.3 per cent margin and has told Senator Xenophon to “bring it on”.
National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.