SHE was awarded three medals for her military service in Afghanistan, where she carried two guns at all times and wore body armour.
But in the week before the federal election, Liberal candidate for Newcastle Jaimie Abbott has been forced to defend her war zone credentials after coming under attack from a former Labor Party member.
And her Liberal ally, Newcastle state member and former RAAF air commodore Tim Owen, has fired back on Ms Abbott’s behalf in an email exchange that has been circulated on Twitter.
In her election advertising, Ms Abbott declares she will fight for Newcastle like she fought for her country.
A flight lieutenant in the RAAF reserves, she spent six months in Kabul providing media training and advice to RAAF and NATO officers, including US General David Petraeus.
Frederic Holten, of Mount Hutton, emailed Ms Abbott this week, asking her how she could compare her role as a public relations consultant with those who fought and died for their country.
‘‘I have every right within our democracy to ask candidates to justify statements and assertions they provide in the public domain,’’ Mr Holten said.
At one point in their exchange, Ms Abbott told Mr Holten: ‘‘As you are someone who doesn’t even live in my electorate or hasn’t been to Afghanistan, please do not contact me again over this matter.’’
Mr Holten’s email drew an angry response from Mr Owen.
‘‘Fredric, whoever you are, I note you sent a note to Jaimie Abbott about her service in Afghanistan. As the former deputy commander of our forces in the Middle East, I can assure you we all fight for our country when on combat operations, unlike anything you have probably done.
‘‘So instead of hiding behind emails to her, why don’t you come into my office and speak to me face to face about it if you have a problem with it (though I am sure you would not have the intestinal fortitude to do so). I look forward to your response.’’
Ms Abbott joined the RAAF reserve in late 2007 and worked at Williamtown RAAF base as a publicist until May this year.
A member of the Waratah-Mayfield RSL sub-branch, she has been awarded the Afghanistan campaign medal, the Australian active service medal and the NATO medal.
Ms Abbott said veterans ‘‘widely agree that anyone serving in a war zone is proudly fighting for their country’’.
‘‘I carried a 9 millimetre pistol and F88 rifle at all times when I was in Kabul,’’ Ms Abbott said last night.
‘‘I went outside the wire as we travelled between bases.
‘‘There were suicide bombings and rocket attacks occurring regularly while I was there.’’
Two months ago, the Newcastle Herald reported how Mr Holten had challenged the Liberal candidate for Shortland, John Church, over comments he made about gay marriage at a the Herald candidates’ forum.
Yesterday, Mr Holten said he had emailed every MP in Australia about gay marriage.
Ms Abbott had written to him in April describing marriage between a man and a woman as ‘‘the bedrock of society’’.
Mr Holten said he placed posts about this on her Facebook site but was ‘‘blocked from commenting’’, although his partner was not.
Mr Holten, 39, said had been an ALP member until 2004 but his partner was a ‘‘long-time Liberal supporter’’.
In a chain of emails to Ms Abbott and Mr Owen this week, Mr Holten asked how she could compare her role as a public relations consultant with those who fought and died for their country.
Mr Holten also posted the issue on Twitter, where it was picked up by various people.
Mr Owen and Ms Abbott stood by their handling of the issue last night, with Mr Owen saying ‘‘she was in a combat zone and we are all combatants’’.
Ms Abbott said ALP members regularly posted on her Facebook page but ‘‘if they continue to harass other followers or use offensive language, I block them. My Facebook page is used only as an opportunity to promote my campaign activities’’.