By Michael Giles
DAVID Amor, a candidate in the Strzelecki ward election for the South Gippsland Shire Council came into the Sentinel-Times office last Friday afternoon brandishing a photo of a woman getting out of a car.
In his mind, it’s the smoking gun of an illegal election smear campaign.
At issue is the publication and distribution, last Tuesday, of a yellow satirical pamphlet titled the ‘South Gippsland Quadrennial Cup’.
It was shades of the Ern Malley Affair.
An anonymous Facebook page carrying the same information was also launched but has since been taken down.
On the one hand the publication is a slightly amusing, if immature assessment of the candidates, or rather the ‘horses’ being ridden by the candidates in the Strzelecki Blue Diamond, the Coastal Promontory St Ledger and the Tarwin Handicap.
On the other hand, it’s a publication designed to malign certain people in the election race, using derogatory names including ‘Redundancy’, ‘Conscripted’, ‘Wood Duck’ and ‘Imposter’ as well as damaging descriptions, while recommending the ‘Best 4 Tips’ to voters.
Mr Amor, who says he takes exception to being referred to as a ‘Windsucker’ in the publication, and several others who have come off second best, say you don’t have to look far past the ‘best tips’ for those responsible.
“It clearly comes from the establishment group,” he alleges.
“The majority block on council and those who support them. That’s why we want a change,” Mr Amor said.
Bass Coast dirt
South Gippsland isn’t on its own.
They’re dishing the dirt in Bass Coast as well where there’s been an especially nasty online war, fuelled last Friday by the failure of the shire to attract $5 million in Federal Government funding for the $15 million Cowes Revitalisation project.
Cr Neil Rankine says the negative campaign mounted by Standalone is to blame (see story 3).
Cr Kimberley Brown, a candidate in the Island ward has been a consistent target of the vitriol.
But, it has been in South Gippsland where the election muck has been flying thickest and fastest.
And one councillor in particular has been bearing the brunt.
Combined with CCTV footage, taken in the Korumburra CBD last Tuesday night, and sighted by David Amor, he claims the grainy photo shows Cr Lorraine Brunt getting out of her shire car in Commercial Street, Korumburra and (in the surveillance footage), putting copies of the allegedly illegal pamphlet under the doors of business premises in the town.
Cr Brunt has rejected the claims made by Mr Amor and also accusations to that effect published on Cr Andrew McEwen’s and Cr Don Hill’s Facebook pages.
“A person looking very much like Cr Brunt has been caught on the night it was distributed by CTV camera in Korumburra in what appears that it might be her council car,” Cr McEwen alleging.
Is it any wonder these people couldn’t work together?
“It’s not me. You can’t tell who it is,” Cr Brunt told the Sentinel-Times this week.
“The photo shows someone getting out of a car with no number plates. Where is the car parked, what time and place?”
In turn, Cr Brunt has accused Mr Amor of stalking her after he said he saw her drive up to the supermarket in Poowong last Thursday afternoon and spend 3/4 of an hour electioneering in a ‘vote for me’ t-shirt outside the premises.
How does he know? He watched her for 45 minutes from his car.
Again Cr Brunt has denied the claims, saying she was coming back from shire business and simply stopped off at the supermarket where she chatted with people as usual.
Complaints about the publication and distribution of the unauthorised election material have already been made to the Victorian Electoral Commission which has referred the matter to the VEC’s complaints process.
“It’s criminal behaviour. You can go to jail for up to six months for distributing unauthorised election material and even if you get elected in the meantime, you can lose your seat as a result of an investigation,” Mr Amor said.
He also repeated accusations made on Cr McEwen’s Facebook page that Cr Davies and Cr Fawcett put the pamphlets up in their windows and were told to take them down by the VEC.
The pamphlet also appeared on tables at a breakfast meeting in Leongatha last Thursday morning, organised by Tarwin Valley candidate Meg Edwards, at which the Federal Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack was the guest speaker.
Ms Edwards says she had nothing to do with it.
The dirty tricks go beyond the pamphlet with another candidate, Jim Forbes, alleging that he was twice followed home by an opposing candidate (naming him), alleging that the person made inquiries at the address he listed on his election nomination form.
“I have been registered at a Poowong address while my house was being built but now that it’s to lock-up stage, I’ve been able to move out.”
Mr Forbes has previously been the subject of council investigations over his use of an allegedly illegal dwelling.
‘Not a dummy’
Meanwhile, the Internet has been awash with abuse and accusations between candidates and their supporters, as everyone comes to terms with the new age of electioneering on line.
There have also been claims and counter claims about ‘dummy’ candidates, an issue complicated by an errant email sent by Di Tood of Koonwarra, a candidate in the Tarwin Valley ward, linked to Don Hill.
In an email to the local press, entitled ‘Muckraking’, Ms Todd objects to “the outrageous allegations of ‘dummy’ candidates standing for the forthcoming council elections…” on the front page of last week’s Sentinel Times.
In error, though, Ms Todd also included some notes at the bottom of her email in which she admits the combined ‘how to vote’ card, initiated, authorised and distributed by Don Hill, could have been handled better:
“…but I do feel that you could have mixed up our preferences a little more, also, I did think you should have included a pamphlet explaining the issues with the how-to-vote card – then they would have had no excuse for these dummy allegations – never mind, no good crying over spilt milk”.
The VEC says that all voting packs should now have been received and in fact, they are starting to receive completed ballot papers.
Those who are yet to receive their voting papers can call their local Returning Officer [Bass Coast 1300 597 380] [South Gippsland [1300 597 895].