As the pointy end of the election draws nears everyone is pulling out the big guns to win votes and to sling mud.
Independent MP Jeremy Buckingham says the Nationals are worried about losing seats and a letter, that directly ties the act of voting to getting a $250 reward, is a desperate move that likely breaks the law.
Buckingham has written to the NSW Election Commission to notify them of the letter being circulated across numerous electorates by the National Party that appears that it could breach section 209 of the NSW Electoral Act 2017 pertaining to electoral bribery.
Voters in at last two marginal seats have received the letter, sent on behalf of Andrew Schier for Barwon and Ben Franklin for Ballina.
The letter is headlined: Vote 1 The Nationals to get your Regional Seniors Transport Card. It includes a Nationals branded sample card, that looks like a credit card, with $250 written on it, glued to the letter.
NSW Electoral Act 2017
209 Electoral bribery, treating and selling of votes
(1) A person must not, in order to influence or affect any person’s election conduct, give or confer, or promise or offer to give or confer, any property or any other benefit of any kind to the person or any other person.
Maximum penalty: 200 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 years, or both.
The Nationals might argue that the card is clearly fo advertising purposes only and just the promise of what may come, but there are some folk who might think it’s a tangible item.
‘Linking the act of voting for the Nationals so directly to a promise of monetary reward is outrageous,’ says Buckingham. ‘The credit card is even branded as if the money will come from the National Party.
‘Many voters will see linking the act of voting Nationals “to get your” card to the value of $250, with an actual sample plastic card, as an attempted bribe, others may fall for it and be influenced at the ballot box.
Ben Franklin responds
Echonetdaily spoke to Ben Franklin this morning about the letter.
He says the Nationals in government are committed to taking the pressure off the cost of living.
‘Talking to people across our region, the message is clear. Many people are doing it tough, which is why the NSW Government has introduced a range of measure to ease the cost of living for seniors,’ he said.
‘Travel is a significant household cost faced by those living across rural and regional NSW.
‘With further distances to travel, country seniors rely more heavily on their cars and that means more fuel and more money.
‘I am proud of this announcement. This initiative is just another way the Nationals in Government are helping reduce the cost of living for households across the State.’
Desperate and underhanded tactics
‘These are desperate and underhanded tactics, targeted at vulnerable people who may not know better,’ says Buckingham. ‘That’s why this type of activity is prohibited by the law.
‘The actual policy is an obvious ploy for votes using half a billion of taxpayers money, but it’s incredible that it is presented as a bribe in such a crass and flagrant manner.
‘I’ve written to the Electoral Commission alerting them of the National Party letter and my concerns that it has breached section 209 of the Electoral Act pertaining to bribery,’ he said.