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January 26, 2022

Labor caught up in Ballina ‘vote rigging’ scandal

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ALP candidate for Ballina, Paul Spooner.
ALP candidate for Ballina at the last state election, Paul Spooner, says he had no knowledge of alleged vote-rigging in the community poll.

Chris Dobney

The Sydney Morning Herald has published allegations of vote rigging in the community-style ALP preselection for the seat of Ballina in 2014.

Byron Shire councillor Paul Spooner was selected via the unusual method, in which members of the community were offered the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate.

He was subsequently defeated for the position by Greens candidate (now MP) Tamara Smith.

But SMH alleges that the vote was rigged by using electoral roll information to randomly choose members of the public and then use their names and addresses to vote online for Mr Spooner.

There’s no suggestion that Mr Spooner was involved in the proposed rigging and he told Echonetdaily the first that he heard of the allegations is when they appeared in the SMH article on the weekend.

Mr Spooner says he remains a supporter of the system, which allows members of the public, not just party members, to vote for their preferred candidate online. But he concedes that if the information is correct, it could require further refinement to ensure transparency.

The ALP has appointed an independent lawyer to investigate the preselection ballot and Mr Spooner says this best way to clear the air.

The official at the centre of the saga claimed to Fairfax Media that while he was directed to perpetrate the fraudulent online voting campaign, he only pretended to do it.

‘They asked me to do it. I played along and said, “Sure, I’ll take care of it, it’s all sorted” and then I never did it because I wasn’t going to do that sort of shit,’ the source told SMH.

Mr Spooner told Echonetdaily he had ‘no inkling’ of the allegations and ‘certainly had heard no indication that… anything like that had been undertaken.’

‘I do emphasise that they are allegations at this point but I’m very pleased that the party officers jumped on it straight away and appointed an independent lawyer to investigate if there’s any substance to the allegations made by one staff member, I believe, in head office and that they’ll be working with the Electoral Commission to clear up any questions surrounding it,’ he said.

Mr Spooner added that there had been no complaints received from his opponent, Ballina Shire councillor Keith Williams, or anyone else involved at the local level.

He said that while it was still in its infancy, the process of community preselection, which is similar to the way in which the US primaries are conducted, was growing in popularity ‘rather than just party members voting behind closed doors’.

‘I think there were three at the last state election,’ he said, adding that the preselection of federal leader Bill Shorten used a similar model.’

He agreed the process might need refining to ensure it was ‘clear and transparent’.

‘You want confidence in any voting system, so appointing an independent lawyer to have a look at any questions that have been raised over this particular community preselection process I hope will lead to any positive changes that need to occur.

‘I’m a supporter of community preselection. I think it’s a great way for the community to engage in the political process and it also, I believe, will encourage other people beyond the traditional party members to consider standing for an election.

‘What it means is that you have the confidence of the community behind you by putting your name forward so I think it’s a good system and I certainly would like to see it maintained within the Labor Party,’ Mr Spooner said.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Well John !!!!!! Never trust a Liberal National either they Promise and Never do also they give to the extremely wealthy pay no tax at company level Like your mate Rapid Murdock and Minimalize Like Turnbull to an overseas tax haven and take away from the everyday workers . so who can trust you.

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