The Ballina Greens have called on the NSW Electoral Commission to declare invalid votes from a Ballina Catholic aged care centre after it refused the party permission to leave electoral materials for residents.
By contrast, the Crowley Care Services residential centre in Ballina gave outgoing Nationals MP Don Page and candidate Kris Beavis a two-hour question and answer session with residents, the Greens have said.
Echonetdaily understands that ‘deemed institutions’ such as aged care centres are obliged to allow candidates a special session with residents, if requested, and to leave election materials for their perusal.
In a letter to the Ballina returning officer, Greens Ballina candidate Tamara Smith wrote, ‘Before the declared institutional voting was due to take place, we attempted to drop off… how-to-vote cards and information about our candidate for the residents to peruse before the lockout of electoral materials, after which time we intended to remove them in line with electoral commission regulations.’
But she said the Greens were disallowed from doing so by the staff at the centre, with no explanation offered.
‘However, we then noticed that they had allowed the Nationals to drop off their materials – with the only explanation offered for the discrepancy… being that apparently Don Page had dropped them off personally,’ she said in the letter.
‘Furthermore, we discovered soon after that the centre personally invited both Don Page and Kris Beavis for a two hour long candidate Q-and-A session. No other candidates were invited or even informed that this event was occurring, and when candidates from other parties discovered that this event had occurred and requested their own opportunity to meet the residents they were denied – again without explanation from the centre,’ she added.
The letter accused Crowley Care Services of ‘a gross breach of electoral guidelines’, which it said ‘demonstrates a clear leading of voters by the National Party and the centre’.
‘Because of this we are submitting a formal complaint against Crowley Care Services and request that the Electoral Commission deem the votes cast there invalid,’ Ms Smith’s letter concluded.
The ALP, by contrast, said they had not experienced any problems in dealing with Crowley.
‘We didn’t have any problem at all,’ Ballina Labor candidate Paul Spooner told Echonetdaily.
‘We emailed Crowley, who said we were welcome to use a room to meet with residents – we would only have to cover the cost of morning tea,’ he said.
‘In the event, we didn’t have money to do that but a couple of volunteers left materials and said that they were quite pleasant to deal with,’ he added.
Following the original publication of this article, Echonetdaily received the following statement from Crowley.
‘Crowley Care Services does not discriminate against any political party, for state, federal or local government elections. Our policy regarding electoral candidates is consistent.’
‘Our residential care facility is a home for our residents, many of whom are frail. Candidates of any party do not have free access into the home,’ he said.
‘However, political candidates are encouraged to organise and host their own party events and invite our residents to attend, in a timely fashion, should they so wish.
‘For the state election we can confirm some parties organised their own events and invited our residents to attend. These events were held outside the residential care facility and residents’ attended at their own discretion. No party was denied the opportunity to organise and host their own event.
‘Crowley Care Services did not invite Don Page, Kris Beavis, or any other political candidate to the facility or to address our residents. We do not place party political flyers, banners or materials in public places at the facility,’ the statement read.
But no comments regarding the Greens’ allegations that their materials were refused have been received from Crowley Care Services.
According to its website, Crowley is a ministry of St Francis Xavier’s Parish, Ballina and is part of the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Lismore.
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