David Lovejoy goes postal on the candidates’ mail chicanery
Two brochures came to my house in the post last week. They both appeared to come from the Australian Electoral Commission offering me the facility of a postal vote.
Except that they didn’t come from the AEC. They came from the two main competing parties in the Richmond electorate, the Nationals and the ALP. What they had in common was deceit, fraud and theft.
The deceit is obvious. Both brochures had reply-paid addresses which turned out to be those of the local party offices, not the AEC. Only a small-print authorisation revealed that the ALP was behind one brochure, although it did address its reply envelope to Justine Elliot. The other gave you no clue about where the reply-paid form would be going, but it did identify itself as National Party with a photo of its candidate. However, that merely added to the confusion, as since when did AEC forms brand themselves with party advertising?
The fraud is that these deceptive mail-outs are paid for by public money. The parties do not contribute a cent to what is essentially an expensive circular in their own interests.
The theft is that by attracting these applications for postal votes to themselves before passing them on to the AEC, the parties are stealing juicy personal information for their databases. It is highly unlikely that people who use this method of applying for a postal vote know that they are being trawled for their private data, and equally unlikely that they would agree to it if they knew.
The law forbids party workers to enter the buildings used as polling booths unless they first remove all party identification from their persons, but the law is powerless to prevent political parties spuriously identifying themselves with the AEC in the matter of postal votes. The law as it stands is also powerless to prevent the parties shamelessly plundering the public purse to pay for this scam and dishonestly gathering information to which they have no right.
Unfortunately the politicians behind this abuse of privilege won’t have to pay the postal bills if they receive an unusually high number of angry replies, but I shall be returning both brochures with succinct remarks about their parentage and morals.
See the Echo’s full election coverage on the page Election 2013