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Liberals pressured to pass on voting plans of friends, family

Date

Michael Inman

CANBERRA Liberal members were urged to spy on friends and relatives and relay their voting intentions to party headquarters, according to a former party insider.

The internal source, who contacted the Sunday Canberra Times on condition of anonymity, said members were urged to relay the information by whatever means for a voter-tracking database.

''They asked us to divide people we meet or know into three categories: rusted-on Liberal, rusted-on Labor and swing voters,'' the former Liberal Party member said. ''We, the members, were then asked to provide names and their political preferences, etcetera, through email, text message, whatever it took, to the party.

''The party put these details in a database. They then [concentrated] resources on the swing voters, ignoring the others.''

The former member said the strategy provided bang for the party's buck by helping it better target swing voters.

The Canberra Liberals declined to answer questions on the constituent engagement system, instead repeating an original statement that said the database was an administrative tool.

The Canberra Times last week revealed the use of voter-tracking software to record and share personal details of constituents who contact the offices of ACT Liberal politicians. The story led to several sources coming forward to outline the use of the software.

The Labor Party runs a similar profiling database called Electrac.

The Sunday Canberra Times can also report that ALP volunteers were overheard on ACT election night boasting of searching friends on the database.

But ACT Labor branch state secretary Elias Hallaj said information stored by MLAs and MPs through individual interactions was carefully partitioned and not shared between offices.

''Like any large advocacy group, ACT Labor representatives utilise lists and computers to facilitate correspondence and liaise directly with constituents,'' he said. ''However, the reality is most MLAs and their staff don't use all the software available and use simpler means to store and track their correspondence and interactions.

''Training is provided to remind our representatives and their staff not to misuse the electoral roll or other confidential information that they have privileged access to.''

Mr Hallaj said he was unaware of any local incidents of misuse of this information.

Privacy campaigners have lobbied against voter-tracking software since its use became common during the 1990s. Privacy law exemptions allow political parties to collect personal information.

Parties receive monthly copies of the electoral roll and augment this basic data with information collected from constituents.

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