'Grubby tactics': AHA accused of push polling in Greens seats
Advertisement

'Grubby tactics': AHA accused of push polling in Greens seats

The NSW Greens have accused the powerful industry lobby group the Australian Hotels Association of "grubby political tactics", after voters in key marginal seats said they were targeted by a push-polling campaign.

Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker referred the lobby group to the NSW Electoral Commission last week after residents contacted him with reports that they had been subject to a biased poll funded by the AHA.

Greens MP Jamie Parker has accused the AHA of dirty tactics.

Greens MP Jamie Parker has accused the AHA of dirty tactics. Credit:James Brickwood

"This is campaigning masquerading as a poll. The questions being asked of local residents are designed to influence voters to not support the Greens," Mr Parker wrote in the complaint.

One resident, Lesley McFadzean said she thought she was taking part in a standard political survey when she agreed to participate on March 2.

Advertisement

But after several general questions concerning the election, Ms McFadzean said the survey abruptly changed tack when she disclosed she intended to vote for the Greens.

Loading

“She (the market researcher) began reading out long quotes from the newspaper and then I had to respond about whether it would affect me voting Greens,” said Ms McFadzean, who is not a Greens party member.

“Each of the questions implied, in total, that the Greens were a sexist, racist, and extreme left wing party.”

Greens voters in the electorate of Lismore - where the Greens, Labor and the National Party are locked in a knife-edge battle for the seat - also reported receiving similar polling.

Karen Allen said the call she received on February 25 became "very much an anti-Greens propaganda call" as she was asked to state her level of support for the party after hearing a series of increasingly negative statements.

"There was no balance at all." Ms Allen, who is also not a member of the Greens, said.

"It was like the woman [who was conducting the poll] was reading newspaper headlines from different controversies concerning the Greens."

One question concerned former upper house Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who quit the party in December after he was accused of sexually harassing a Greens volunteer - a claim he denies.

Ms Allen and Ms McFadzean said they queried who was funding the poll but were instructed to wait until the end of the call, at which point the caller revealed she was polling on behalf of the AHA.

Loading

"So you have to listen to the whole anti-Greens spiel before you can find out who is funding it," Ms Allen said.

Mr Parker believes the AHA NSW's motivation was the party's strong anti-gambling policies, which the party may be in a position to prosecute more forcefully should next week's election end in a hung Parliament.

“This is a grubby political tactic from a lobby desperate to protect its precious cash cow - the poker machine," Mr Parker said.

Mr Parker is defending the seat of Balmain on a margin of 4.7 per cent.

NSW hotels host 22,631 of the 91,788 poker machines in pubs and clubs, according to 2018 data.

The AHA NSW declined to respond to these allegations as part of a series of questions put by the Herald, and instead provided a brief statement.

“The AHA NSW conducts in-house research from time-to-time for internal purposes,” the statement said.

The AHA was not registered as a third party campaigner when the polling was conducted, but joined the register on March 8, three days after the Greens lodged their complaint.

Under NSW electoral law, it is an offence for an unregistered third-party campaigner to pay for electoral expenditure incurred between October 1 2018 and election day on March 23.

The NSW Electoral Commission declined to comment on specific matters, but said it was "not unlawful for a third-party campaigner to make payment for electoral expenditure after registration, even if that expenditure was incurred prior to registration".

Lisa Visentin is a state political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Most Viewed in Politics

Loading
Advertisement