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No action on electoral complaints 'sets dangerous precedent'

Date

Noel Towell

ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green.

ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green. Photo: Jay Cronan

Police have declined to prosecute the Canberra Liberals over breaches of the Electoral Act in the lead-up to last month's territory election.

But electoral authorities insisted the complaints had been properly investigated and backed the AFP's decision not to take court action against the Liberals.

ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green said the breaches had been "trivial" and would not have affected the outcome or integrity of the election.

But the complainant Nick Hopkins says the lack of action sets a "dangerous precedent."

Mr Hopkins' complaints, about large Liberals' posters that had not been authorised as required by the Electoral Act, were referred to police by Mr Green.

The Commissioner told The Canberra Times that the AFP had considered the complaints and decided against further action.

"In this case, I referred the complaint to the Australian Federal Police," Mr Green said.

"As with anything else, they have to make an assessment against standardised criteria.

"That's what they did and they looked at a number of factors, including evidentiary issues, the impact on ACT community, the resources required to undertake an investigation, the likelihood of obtaining a positive outcome and decided the case would not be worth proceeding with.

"You've got to realise that most of the things we are talking about are, in the scheme of things, reasonable trivial and this particular matter was election signs not authorised, it's a different order of magnitude than a fraud or a defamation, something that might lead to the integrity of the election being called into question."

But Mr Hopkins is not happy with the outcome.

"If the ACT Liberal Party was found guilty on these 2 counts they would be liable for two fines of up to $5,500 each," he said.

"But apart from the financial issue, it is a dangerous precedent for the AFP to be determining the "impact of the offence on the ACT community" when the combined impact of various breaches by the ACT Liberals very nearly saw a change of government.

"If I was a Liberal strategist I would take heart in the fact that Electoral Act breaches go unprosecuted, and would be planning greater breaches to swing public opinion in 2016."

 

24 comments

  • Seriously? So both the AFP and the Electoral Commission thought that the breaches didn't warrant any action, but the 'complainant' is upset, and this makes it a story????

    Commenter
    RachelB83
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    November 21, 2012, 1:25PM
    • So the "law and order" party breaks the law. Fancy that!

      Commenter
      Voter
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 10:32PM
  • Not good enough. Democratic integrity demands a zero tolerance approach to electoral abuses, no matter how 'trivial'.

    Commenter
    yumq
    Location
    CBR
    Date and time
    November 21, 2012, 2:13PM
    • Mr Hopkins, you happened not to detail the breaches by the ALP and the Greens.

      Both parties were equally guilty of similar breaches on numerous times, including the ALP repeatedly canvassing within the 100m exclusion zone of a polling both near Pilgram House in the preceeding weeks, and both the Greens and ALP also distributing unauthorised election material into peoples letterboxes.

      You can't have one rule of one party and other for the rest. Given the decision set by the ACT Electoral Commissioner, I'd say he's manged to maintain a fair and even hand.

      Given the outcome, I'm glad that Phil Green is the electoral commissioner, as it is unusal to find someone in Canberra with an unbiased political few.

      Commenter
      Julia Rudd
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 2:14PM
      • Julia, I've checked my "Election" archive and find that I received three Greens leaflets in the last 14 months, all giving the name and address of the authorising person and therefore authorised under the Electoral Act. I believe two were hand delivered and one was posted.
        Only Liberals and Labor handed out how to vote cards within 100m of polling booths pre-poll and on election day and this breach of s 303 of the Electoral Act occurred across Canberra. At my polling booth, the Liberals had huge signs on the back of a truck to ensure that it could be seen from inside the 100m exclusion zone in breach of s 303 of the Act. Considering that around 20% of voters make up their minds in the booth, infringements of s 303 can have a major impact on the election outcome, which may well have occurred in the recent ACT election.

        Commenter
        Patricia
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        November 21, 2012, 10:26PM
      • If you have complaints about the activities of the other parties, you should document them and submit an official complaint just like Mr Hopkins has done. One breach does not justify another.

        Commenter
        Karl
        Date and time
        November 22, 2012, 8:22AM
    • Oh Canberra Times, the election is OVER, you guys won, and you're still doing Labor's electioneering for them. Can you run a FEATURE story instead on how the author of that all-important tax reform has come out and admitted the tax will be efficient but inequitable - yes that's right, it's an unfair tax, because it's all going to be transferred to rates, something the Libs were accused of using as a lie and scare campaign. Perhaps THAT would have affected the outcome of the election, rather than a few unauthorised signs.

      Commenter
      Nate
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 2:29PM
      • its being tranferred to rates in a more efficient way based on means rather than a flat tax rate...I dont see that as inequitable, they do it with means testing of other areas of tax both State and Federally...you guys are just Tea Party wannabes who don't understand the basic economic need to reform the taxation system to be more flexible in the future for when you Baby Boomers all retire to go SKIing (spending the kids inhertance) and all the tax revenues fall as a result, as they leave the tax system and start drawing on their super.

        Commenter
        Frank
        Date and time
        November 21, 2012, 4:39PM
      • There will be a substantial rates increase for the owners of valuable properties, including retirees on modest incomes, and the government has said it would look into this. Most rates will increase by a modest amount, much less than than the 300% the Liberals claimed, and some will decrease. All this over a 20 year period, during which time wages and salaries will also increase. The Liberal claim that everyone's rates would triple and the implication that this would occur during the four year term of the next ACT Assembly were patently false. Nothing like a good scare campaign to win an election. The Liberals are masters of it.

        Commenter
        Canberran
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        November 21, 2012, 10:45PM
    • Mr Hopkins should get a life!

      Commenter
      Sharron
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 21, 2012, 2:48PM

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