The state Labor opposition has lodged a complaint with the NSW parliament after Lismore MP Thomas George distributed emails containing the names and addresses of signatories to a petition.
The petition, which reflected concerns about bikie gangs and police numbers on the north coast, was lodged on January 30, the first of a series of petitions to be tabled on the subject.
It contained the names and addresses of 14 signatories, several of whom contacted shadow minister for the north coast Walt Secord in alarm that their personal details had been revealed by the Mr George, who is also NSW Legislative Assembly deputy speaker.
‘People sign petitions because they feel strongly about a matter, but they do not expect to see their names distributed. They put their name forward in good faith and hope that parliamentarians treat the information with respect,’ Mr Secord said.
He said that one of the signatories was a 77-year-old pensioner, who was rightly concerned about his safety after the disclosure.
He described the move as ‘de facto intimidation’.
‘Unfortunately, some of the signatories have seen the distribution of the signed petition as an attempt to dissuade them from raising policing matters.
‘They are also very concerned about the prospect of the petition making its way to the criminal element on the north coast as the petition contains their home addresses,’ Mr Secord said.
He called on Mr George to apologise for the disclosure.
‘Mr George must apologise to the residents who signed the petition and had their information released.
‘The north coast is experiencing an increased activity of bikie gangs moving to NSW and the residents were concerned about the drop in police numbers. This was the impetus for the petition.
‘Parliamentarians must be reminded of the importance of protecting the release of sensitive personal information of those who sign a petition.
But Mr George says he has done nothing wrong.
He told ABC this morning that Hansard advised his colleague, Tweed MP Geoff Provest, that the petition was a public document.
Mr Secord said he had already lodged further petitions – with a total of 422 signatures – for the upcoming session, but he wanted an assurance that the personal details would be protected by the NSW government.