Kerryn Phelps targeted by false HIV claims
AN email falsely claiming Independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps has pulled out of the Wentworth by-election because she has HIV has been widely distributed just days before voters go to the polls.
Dr Phelps, who is the favourite to win Saturday's by-election according to leaked Liberal polling, told the ABC the email was one of the "dirty tricks" in a smear scampaign against her.
The email, obtained by the ABC, was sent to hundreds of constituents and organisations from a fake address on Sunday and urges recipients to divert their vote to Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, the public broadcaster reports.
"Kerryn was diagnosed with HIV yesterday, so no chance she will be running for the election," the email read.
"Choose Dave Sharma. Otherwise if you choose local white, they will be molesting your children someday."
News.com.au does not suggest Mr Sharma or anyone involved with his campaign was behind the email.
"When I went into this campaign people warned me that there would be dirty tricks, but this is next level," Dr Phelps told the ABC.
Dr Phelps is widely considered the Liberal Party's biggest threat in Wentworth.
Earlier this week, she attracted last-minute support from the son of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Dr Phelps welcomed Alex Turnbull's support on Wednesday.
"It's entirely out of the blue," she told AAP.
Alex Turnbull, who's been a vocal critic of the Liberal Party since his father was rolled as leader in August, is now urging Wentworth voters to support the leading independent candidate.
"Realistically if it's tight, and the preference flows are as they are, it's better to vote for @drkerrynphelps if you want greater certainty of the Liberals not retaining the seat," he tweeted.
"And if you vote for (Labor's Tim Murray) be very sharp about your preferencing."
Internal Liberal polling, published in The Australian, suggests Dr Phelps could secure 55 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote.
The former Australian Medical Association boss says the polling is heartening, but must be kept in perspective.
"It's Liberal Party polling, so I think you have to take it with a grain of salt but certainly the mood, the feeling in the community, is that they're ready for change and that there is a certain momentum," Dr Phelps said.
Many voters are irate over Canberra's "thought bubble" to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the throes of a by-election campaign, she said.
"People are still annoyed and they're very upset about the chaos in the Liberal Party at the moment."
Dr Phelps has said she'll seek an urgent briefing from Australian security agencies to understand how and why the Government floated the idea if she wins on Saturday.
She's not ruled out supporting the move.
Mr Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, says Mr Morrison's announcement - which would see Australia follow the United States which has already moved its embassy - has nothing to do with Saturday's by-election.
Meanwhile, polling commissioned by Greenpeace Australia indicates climate change remains the biggest issue for voters in Wentworth.
More than 40 per cent of voters surveyed in the ReachTEL poll said climate change was their number one issue.
- With AAP