Sunday, November 12, 2006

Complaint lodged with VEC over Labor 'local' claims

This went out on the same day (8 November) but, as you will see in replying to the complaint made to him, the Elector Commissioner, Steve Tully, also had his pen in the inkwell that day! Here's the text of my letter.

Dear Mr Tully,

I am writing to seek your urgent action to rectify misleading or deceptive information in campaign materials recently sent to electors by Mary Delahunty MP and on behalf of Labor candidate for Northcote, Fiona Richardson.

Referring to Ms Richardson respectively as a 'long standing local resident' and a 'local working mother', these materials (copies attached) give the false impression that this candidate lives in the electorate, when in fact she lives in Regent, which falls well within the electoral district of Preston.

Ms Richardson recently acknowledged that she lives outside the electorate in the 18 October edition [actually 17 October - Ed.] of the Northcote Leader. However, there is no such acknowledgment in the electoral materials, which are mass mailed to electors and are likely to deceive those wishing to cast their vote for a genuinely local candidate.

Had Ms Richardson nominated for Preston, she could have rightly claimed local status, but I contend claiming local status for Northcote in fact is 'likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of the vote of the elector,' and therefore breaches section 84(1) of the Electoral Act 2002.

In rectifying this breach, note should be taken of the extensive resources of the Labor Party to reach electors via mass mail-outs and other marketing measures. The Labor Party ought therefore to be called on to publish within the electoral matter still to be distributed a notice correcting their claim of local status for their candidate. The correction should plainly indicate that the use of the term local was inappropriately applied, that the candidate lives outside the electorate, and that the correction has been ordered by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). A similar statement should also be required to be published prominently in local media, together with other measures as deemed appropriate by the VEC.

Finally, with a short time remaining until the State election, I request your urgent response on these matters in order that voters who wish to choose a local candidate may have the facts at hand when they cast their vote. To this end, I have forwarded a copy of this letter, together with a press release, to the media.

Sincerely etc.

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