Anthony Albanese says it’s “extraordinary” that deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley has yet to delete a social media post linking the wrongful arrest of a High Court detainee to an upcoming by-election.

Victoria Police has publicly apologised after withdrawing sexual assault charges against a 44-year-old former immigration detainee that they claim was a case of mistaken identity.

The Coalition seized on the arrest before the dropped charges were confirmed during question time on Thursday, using it as an opportunity to accuse the government of putting the public’s safety at risk ahead of a by-election in the south Melbourne seat of Dunkley on Saturday.

Asked about a post on X from Ms Ley in which she urged voters to turn against Labor if they had a “problem with Victorian women being assaulted by former criminals”, the Prime Minister slammed her decision to keep the tweet live despite the dropped charges.

“I find it extraordinary that Sussan has refused to delete that tweet,” Mr Albanese told reporters on Friday.

“Yesterday showed a problem that if you are just negative, if you just run fear campaigns and don’t worry about the facts, shoot from the hip … it says everything about the problem with this 24-hour cycle where you just have a fear campaign about everything and a solution for nothing.”

Political controversy over a High Court ruling that found holding non-citizens in indefinite immigration detention to be unlawful spilt over last month after data emerged showing that a number of the detainees freed under the decision had previously been convicted of serious crimes.

Victoria Police Commander Mark Galliot told media he was “sincerely sorry” to one of the former detainees, a 44-year-old Richmond man, after he was wrongfully arrested and charged with sexual offences on Wednesday.

Ms Ley has chosen to defend her post, which remains live as of Friday, instead referencing the figures that showed out of the 149 freed detainees, seven have been previously convicted of murder or attempted murder, 37 of sexual offences and 72 of assault and violent offending, kidnapping or armed robbery.

“Every one of those individuals who has been let out, those hardened criminals, should be locked up. It includes 37 sex offenders,” she said.

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

Education Minister Jason Clare said the post was a “classic example” of why women were hesitant to join the Liberal Party before blasting the Coalition’s campaign strategy ahead of the by-election as “desperate” and “grubby.”

“I don’t know, really, you must wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and think, after 25 years of being a member of parliament, is this what I’ve become? I’m reduced to putting out tweets like this?” he said.

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