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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Are the Nationals bribing voters?

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The Nationals ‘bribe’ letter header from a document sent on behalf of Andrew Schier. Photo supplied.

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.

Ben Franklin for Ballina also has a letter with his signature on it. Photo supplied.

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.

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  1. Where the hell did the nationals get my address? It certainly was not from the electoral roll. Must have been from the list for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Care card or the NSW Seniors card. This is a gross breach of privacy. Shame on ben franklin and the Nationals for indulging in such pork barreling. Oink oink oink…….

  2. Mr Franklin needs to get his story straight. The letter to me states this is a Regional Seniors Card and to be eligible you need to be “either an aged pensioner or a superannuation and annuity income earner” ( annuity earner?? ) The website however says the card is “Available for aged pensions or Commonwealth Senior Health Card holders.”
    Not every person on superannuation is eligible for the Senior Health Care Card.
    So who IS eligible for this dive into the pork barrel?

  3. Why not? It’s time some of the parties and candidates spared a thought for pensioners who are the great mass of forgotten voters. Every party makes promises, nothing new about that. While they’re at it, how about increasing pensions by more than a lousy dollar like last time. A nice round 50 bucks a week would be a very gratefully received gift for decades of service to the country.

  4. How will the Nationals prove that you have voted for them? Everyone’s vote is secret????? Unfortunately some people will fall for this stunt. The Nationals must be absolutely desperate! They are on the fringe of dishonesty! Certainly fake advertising on their behalf!

    • There is no suggestion that the card is available only for those who vote National – that is why Buckingham’s stunt to raise the card with the Electoral office will fail. It is a policy announcement albeit a very targeted one, but with a TAFE in the Bay new cycle-ways to Suffolk Park and Lennox, an unequivocal commitment to the rail trial,a commitment ot roads Ben Franklin is shifting the votes of even long term supporters away from the Greens whose policies do not stand scrutiny and are either unachievable or irrelevant to rural NSW. Labor too has much more realistic evidenced-based policies than the Greens and some very dedicated candidates who are more liekly to deliver them.

        • Plainly the Nationals are using this initiative to win votes just as every party has initiatives they hope will be popular., although this is singularly crude initiative. But there is nothing to suggest if they won the card would only be available to those who voted Nationals, and as Marie notes there is no way a government could determine who voted National. Nor is there any suggestion here that the card would only be available ot electorates that voted Nationals.

  5. We received one card for two of us. Do they assume because we are married, we vote the same way? If Ben Franklin was in touch with the electorate he would know most help should go to our young people(including help with the cost of transport)
    A policy of reversing the privatisation of the Lands Titles Office and return it to a public service would be of great help to all generations including future ones.

  6. Just how low can the National party go. They seem to believe that everyone and everything can be bought and sold. Then to add insult to injury, they offer to buy us off with OUR tax money.
    Not so very long ago such tax money would be spent by governments for the common good of most if not all of the people of NSW. A concept that used to be called “responsible government” in a “democracy”.
    What a joke the old parties in this State and this country have become. Vote wisely people.

  7. useless dummy plastic cards for a publicity / advertising stunt…
    obviously not an ecologically minded party!
    i would say they have. lost my vote just on that basis , but i would be lying….

  8. The LNP attempted to cancel your energy utilities rebate for pensioners but were blocked by the Labor party.
    If the LNP were ever re-elected you can guarantee the first thing they would cancel would be your energy rebate, worth far more than some token LNP “election promise” that will always be core “NON CORE” promised after the election.
    How safe is your car rego and license discounts under the LNP is at question as well? The LNP have insulted our Nth Rivers communities for far to long, it’s time to hit the flush button on the LNP, especially the Nat’s.
    The Premier is refusing to even talk to communities and journalist asking questions all over NSW!


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