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Campaign signs war: racist vandalism hits Greens

Date

Lisa Cox and Fleta Page

Simon Sheikh's signs burnt and vandalised.

Simon Sheikh's signs burnt and vandalised.

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.

A Liberal Party election banner that had fallen over along Gungahlin Drive in Mitchell.

A Liberal Party election banner that had fallen over along Gungahlin Drive in Mitchell. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

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.

Simon Sheikh putting his signs up next to Isabella Drive.

Simon Sheikh putting his signs up next to Isabella Drive. Photo: Melissa Adams

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

60 comments

  • As a white Australian male I am appalled to find myself living in a country where this kind of racism occurs.

    It is to be noted that the major reason why Abbott may be elected this Saturday is because older mostly white Australian males support him by a large majority. It is this conservative rump who find themselves threatened by change and appear to have no sense of how to relate to the rest of the world. Get used to it guys; you are a small minority.

    Commenter
    Clive
    Location
    MAnly West
    Date and time
    September 03, 2013, 12:07PM
    • Clive, I find your comments breath takingly stupid is the best way I can put it. how the hell do you know who defaced or damaged the signs?? where you present?? Perhaps it is you and your "whatever it is rump" that feel threatened and unable to relate to different thinking and are unable to accept change to the wonderful way this country has been run over the last 6 years...NOT!

      Commenter
      Maty
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 12:35PM
    • Clive, there are plenty of other candidates signs laying flat on the side of the roads into Gungahlin. It's not just one being targetted here so we should all stop assuming it's a targetted assaut on race, gender or religion.

      As far as I'm concerned it is either stupid teens destroying things that don't belong to them, or it's someone like me who is sick to death of this constant eleoctoral bombardment. How much money is wasted on TV ads, glossy brocures in the mail and signs on the side of the road. There is only a small margin of the population who don't know who they are going to vote for. Glossy signs on the side of the road are not going to sway them into thinking "wow, I love that colour blue, I'll vote for those guys". What a waste of money in a climate where we preach economic reform and conservation of resources. Now we want to turn a few defaced or vandalised signs into a race hate crime. I suppose that all the road work signs and traffic cones that get knocked down is a direct threat to the local council and the road workers. Grow up Canberra and stop trying to promote race and hatred issues that don't exist.

      Commenter
      RamRod - ACT
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 1:01PM
    • Oh my goodness Clive, being a 65 year old, 47 year Labor voter the reason I would swap sides is because never in my life has my or my families value as an Australian citizen been so low and threatened by a bunch of knob politicians that have lost all value of traditional Labor and that proved how faithfull the are to their cause with the majority bailing from one leader to another and its simply about self preservation and a bigger pay packet and pension.
      And Clive, do not call me a conservative rump because after all these years I choose to consider another team.

      Commenter
      OLD DOG
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 1:08PM
    • OMG Clive, get over yourself! Where have you been lving if you consider this to be racism!
      Come to Canberra the land of the NIMBY!! All the do gooders like yo deserve to live in Canberra, come on down.
      GO TONY GO, A white Australian conservative Rump to be our next PM, we should all be celebrating!!

      Commenter
      Anti Canberra
      Location
      Bowning
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 1:30PM
    • I agree Clive!

      Commenter
      Sharron
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 1:30PM
    • Anti-Canberra, spoken like a true country hick.

      So please do tell us how the asylum seeker has ruined life for you in little ol' Bowning?

      Commenter
      Sharron
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 1:43PM
    • Clive do you need directions to the airport? Since you are appalled to be living in this great country, I am sure there are plenty of other places you can settle? How bout Egypt? Iraq? Ethiopia?
      Gee some people just don't know how lucky they really are!!

      Commenter
      Pete
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 2:16PM
    • Dear "Old Dog"

      I don't think 18-year-olds had the vote 47 years ago.

      So: I think you're telling fibs about your age, youngster

      Commenter
      gotcha
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 2:18PM
    • Sharon.....like a true country hick! That I may be with two degrees and a PHD! I never mentioned Asylum Seekers at all, and if people like you came out to the "Country" and not just bleated from your lego land existence, you would understand the issues we have. Have you ever been out of Canberra? Do you know where Milk, Beef or Lamb comes from. Probably not, your probably a Vegan!! Call yourselves Australian and you probably have no idea what happens outside of Canberra, There is more to the world and Australia than exists in the ACT.

      Commenter
      Anti Canberra
      Location
      Bowning
      Date and time
      September 03, 2013, 3:02PM

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