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Electoral Commissioner tells Liberals to add their names to light rail postcards

The Canberra Liberals will have to add their names to thousands of postcards being distributed as part of the campaign against light rail, after the Electoral Commission found they did not meet Electoral Act requirements.

About 200,000 postcards have been printed, asking members of the public for their views on the tram project and directing them to an online survey published by opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe.

The cards do not include Mr Coe's name nor that of any opposition member, the Liberal Party or an official authorisation, as required by the territory's Electoral Act.

The return mailing address says only "ACT Opposition" and the Legislative Assembly post office box number.

Electoral Commissioner Phil Green investigated the postcards after questions from The Canberra Times on Tuesday, meeting with Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and Mr Coe.

Mr Green said he believed the postcards did represent electoral materials, and therefore required an authorisation or the name of a person or a party. The rules don't require authorisation on letters from Assembly members, press releases, annual reports, merchandise or publications by government agencies.


Mr Green said adding the name of the sender or an indication that the sender is an Assembly member would satisfy the requirements.

Names will be stamped or written by hand on the thousands of remaining cards and no further action would be required, Mr Green said.

"Mr Coe has undertaken to insert his name and title on the postcard by use of a stamp in a manner so as to indicate that he is the sender of the card.

"I am also satisfied that any apparent failure to comply with the authorisation provisions was inadvertent and that appropriate steps are being taken to remedy the situation."

The postcards cost about $4500 for printing and will be handed out in shopping centres and placed in letterboxes around the city.

"There certainly are some ambiguities regarding the requirements of the Electoral ACT, the rules of the Assembly and the Remuneration Tribunal," Mr Coe said.

"We think there is a lot of scope for those rules to be harmonised so that all MLAs can be compliant with each set of rules at all times."

He said the website authorisation was included because respondents would receive an anti-light rail message. Political parties regularly use online surveys and websites to collect voters' information, including for campaign databases and fundraising mailing lists.

Mr Coe's printing has come under scrutiny before. Last year it was reported he sent 45,000 Christmas "calendar cards" to constituents and about 2000 21st birthday cards.

In 2012, Mr Coe and Liberal Vicki Dunne were ordered by then-Speaker Shane Rattenbury to repay thousands of dollars for pamphlets distributed in their Ginninderra electorate.

Already more than 2000 responses have been received to the new postcards. Mr Coe said about 23 per cent were in favour of the tram line to Gungahlin, while about 76 per cent were opposed.

In a separate development, Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell told the Assembly this month that two sets of government-commissioned research completed last year on the tram had cost taxpayers more than $78,000.

Polling by Piazza Research in August 2014 found 55 per cent of Canberra residents support building a light rail system. The telephone survey found 34 per cent opposition to the tram, strongest in Kambah, Curtin, Garran and Hughes.

The Capital Metro agency also spent another $3400 for the production of 2000 promotional cardboard model trams.