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Peter Dutton doubles down on immigration attacks despite Victoria police clearing detainee of assault charges

<span>Opposition leader Peter Dutton defended the Coalition’s attacks on the government over the charging of a person released from immigration detention, which has now been withdrawn.</span><span>Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP</span>
Opposition leader Peter Dutton defended the Coalition’s attacks on the government over the charging of a person released from immigration detention, which has now been withdrawn.Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The Coalition has doubled down on its question time attacks on the government over the charge of a person released from immigration detention – despite Victoria police now conceding they got the wrong man and withdrawing charges.

On Friday the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, argued he was entitled to rely on an earlier Victoria police statement and media reports, as Labor went on the counterattack accusing the Coalition of a “grubby political scare campaign”.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said it is “extraordinary” that the deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, has still not deleted an inflammatory tweet about alleged assaults by “foreign criminals” against “Victorian women”.

On Thursday Victoria police said a 44-year-old Richmond man who had been released as a result of the high court ruling on indefinite detention had been charged with sexual assault, stalking and two counts of unlawful assault.

Just hours after Dutton made the alleged assaults the centrepiece of the Coalition’s question time attack, Victoria police revealed they had cleared the former detainee and now believe another man – who there is no reason to believe was released from immigration detention – was involved in the incident.

On Thursday evening, the Victoria police commander Mark Galliott apologised for the “error in arresting the person and remanding him”. He cited GPS data from the man’s ankle bracelet, quality of CCTV available at the time and similarities in “race, age, height, clothing” as the cause for the error.

Galliott denied that racial profiling contributed to the arrest.

“Based on the evidence and the descriptions we had at that time there was grounds for the arrest, they look very much alike and very similar,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.

“Based on, as well with the GPS data, [this] gave the investigators enough to satisfy themselves this was the offender.”

On Friday, Dutton said it was “entirely reasonable” for the Coalition to have made the points it did in parliament “when you are relying on advice from the police authorities, from a statement that had been issued or from media reports that had been confirmed by the minister responsible”.

“I guess the general point that we’re making is that the Albanese government’s released 149 people, hardened criminals, from immigration detention,” he told reporters in Frankston South.

The Coalition has sought to make its handling of the issue a factor in the Dunkley byelection.

Before the police withdrew charges, Ley tweeted a statement about “Victorian women being assaulted by foreign criminals” urging a vote against Labor on Saturday.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, the chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, threatened to make a human rights complaint about the tweet.

Albanese told reporters in Frankston that the incident “showed the problem – if you are just negative, if you just run fear campaigns [and] don’t worry about the facts, but you just shoot from the hip, get out there [and] run a fear campaign”.

“If you look at the questions that were asked in parliament yesterday, it says everything about the problem with this 24-hour news cycle, where you just have a fear campaign about everything and a solution for nothing.”

Earlier on Friday, the education minister, Jason Clare, took Ley to task, demanding that she delete the tweet in a segment with her on Channel Seven’s Sunrise.

“This is a classic example of why women aren’t joining the Liberal party and why they’re not voting for the Liberal party, because of that classic, desperate, grubby political scare campaign we saw from the Liberal party yesterday,” he said.

Ley defended herself and said she was “not taking instructions” from Clare.

The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, has repeatedly said that those released as a result of the NZYQ decision are continuously monitored and the location of all of them is known.

Ley noted that Labor’s home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, had previously said if it were up to her “all of these people would be back into detention”.

She noted that the home affairs department had revealed 37 of the 149 people released had been convicted of sexually based offending

“As a woman I am not taking a backward step on this and I’m calling it out,” Ley said.

Sanmati Verma, acting legal director of the Human Rights Law Ceentre, said that “relentless hounding to drum up community fear for political gain … endangers people who have been lawfully released from detention”.

-With additional reporting by Australian Associated Press

• Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 500 2222. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html