Election signs for Greens candidate Simon Sheikh have been set on fire and defaced with the racist slur “Arab-proof the Senate” amid continued conflict between parties, vandals, and authorities over campaign signage around the territory.
There have been multiple reports of signs pulled down and cut up, and many sport crudely-sprayed additions, such as blacked out eyes on Liberal candidate Zed Seselja, and moustaches on Liberal lower-house hopeful Elizabeth Lee.
Territory and Municipal Services have also issued repeated warnings to parties to comply with legal requirements for the placement and size of signage, and said the number of illegal signs has increased over the past week. Rangers have so far impounded more than 130 signs during the campaign.
But in a sign of a heated campaign, signs for ACT Greens senate candidate Mr Sheikh have been targeted with racist graffiti, with his “Abbott-proof the senate” sign altered to read “Arab-proof” and “Leb-proof” instead, while other signs have been slashed in half or burned.
The former GetUp! director has run one of the territory’s most visible campaigns, with hundreds of his “Abbott-proof the Senate” signs installed along Canberra’s major thoroughfares.
Campaign spokeswoman Sophie Trevitt said vandals, predominantly in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin, had spray painted the signs with the racist slogans.
Mr Sheikh’s father is from Pakistan and his mother was born in Australia.
Ms Trevitt said volunteers had spent a couple of days each week removing or repairing damaged material, and some Canberra residents had also removed the defaced signs themselves and notified the Greens’ campaign office.
“The most concerning thing is there is no place for racism in the political sphere or in Australia,” she said. “That we’re seeing that here, with our signs, is concerning.”
Ms Trevitt said the party had notified ACT Territory and Municipal Services but did not know who was responsible for the vandalism.
“The fact that these are personal attacks and racist in nature is worrying,” she said.
“We know this is a tight Senate race and that everybody is working hard to get their candidate over the line.
“But to have a truly democratic process we need to be respectful of each other.”
Meanwhile, TAMS have again issued warnings against illegal campaign signage, most recently impounding 30 Liberal party signs on the south side of Canberra on Monday night.
TAMS had notified the Liberal party on Monday afternoon that a number of banners they had placed by major roads throughout Canberra breached the TAMS code as they were too large.
The code of practice for electoral advertising stipulates maximum dimensions of 900 by 1200 millimetres. They were given until 7pm on Monday to remove the banners or have them impounded, but the warning was apparently ignored.
TAMS said more signs would be removed in Canberra’s north on Monday unless the rules were complied with.
Regulations state that signs can’t be attached to government property such as trees, traffic lights and light poles and cannot require support from any other object.
Signs are also banned from roundabouts, median strips or areas within 20 metres of either traffic lights or the corner of an intersection.
The Liberal party claimed TAMS had been “unclear” in their approach to sign management, and inconsistent in enforcement of the rules as other parties also got away with breaches.
“We note that Green Party signs, that are oversized according to the legislation, have remained on the roadsides for some weeks, and that hundreds of CFMEU stickers attached to ACT Government buildings and rubbish bins are only starting to be removed several days after being placed there,” a spokesperson said.
TAMS said it distributed information about the code of practice prior to the election, but it has been ignored by a number of parties.
The Greens were the first to breach the code, with a number of signs impounded on day one of the campaign.
On Tuesday, TAMS said its rangers will continue to patrol the territory to keep an eye out for breaches leading up to September 7 poll, with offending material to be removed. Collection and penalty fees can be imposed on parties for repeat offences.
Signs must then be removed within 48 hours of the close of the polls.
with Hamish Boland-Rudder