Shifty moves and politicians getting their sticky hands into your privacy colour this week’s “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.
READING “The irony of seeing corflutes from Labor candidates planted amongst the long weeds at the side of roads is lost on them,” was the boom! moment when I was editing a piece by our political reporter Belle Strahorn.
She had randomly collected six people around the city in recent weeks and asked how they were going to vote at the ACT poll and why. And they all know who and they can easily articulate why.
The vox pop isn’t science, more a finger-to-the-wind insight on how some people are feeling.
But it was Belco Party voter Simon Chapple’s droll observation on the corflutes amid the weeds that particularly got me thinking.
It is election folklore that at the last territory election in 2016 Labor and the unions mounted a mighty phone and door-knocking assault on the electorate in the final fortnight of the campaign and dragged four more years from the jaws of defeat right under the nose of the Libs and then-leader Jeremy Hanson, who looked confident of ending Labor’s then 15 years in government.
So, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been wondering if there were any dirty tricks or shady campaign tactics afoot in these final days. I know of one that has outraged me, which I will get to further on, but the shiftiest that I’ve seen has come from Labor.
The party has distributed, at least in the north of the city, a negative letterbox flyer that characterises Liberal leader Alistair Coe as an L-plater failing the “license” (sic) application to govern Canberra. It comes with no obvious Labor livery and its source could appear confusing to a householder given the use of typography similar to the Canberra Liberals’ logo.
Labor campaign director Melissa James’ statutory authorisation was described as “microscopic” by one irritated, “not-impressed” inner-north reader. And she’s right.
Another reader, Martin Gordon, of Dunlop, writes in this week’s letters column that “the underlying message in the flyer in Labor mythology is that only the Labor Party knows what is best for you. The reminder that they are progressive (ie the red flyer in the letterbox recently) seems to have flopped.
“Andrew Barr is unpopular, Alistair Coe is of a lower profile but that is not a disqualification. History is full of new leaders proving their opponents wrong. Many prove to be perfectly competent, and sometimes particularly good.
“The Labor (and Green) dominance is under threat, not only from the Liberals but from the people.”
Political columnist and former independent health minister Michael Moore made an interesting point to me on radio (“CityNews Sunday Roast”, 2CC, 9am-noon) the other day that being in opposition prepares parties for government. With 19 years in opposition, one could argue the Liberals are more than qualified with endless challenges of the government and questioning public servants in committees under their belts.
So maybe the characterisation of Coe as an L-plater will backfire on Labor as “a sign of arrogance”, as Martin Gordon’s letter says. We’ll know soon enough.
MEANWHILE let’s have a look at some other odd Labor activities.
A couple of weeks back I heard about Amy, who lives in the electorate of Brindabella.
She got an unsolicited text message from someone called Baz on 0451 562905. He identifies himself as a volunteer, though not of what (presumably for prolonging the political fortunes of incumbent and continuing candidate Mick Gentleman).
Amy’s never heard of Baz and she can’t imagine that Minister Mick was really, truly reaching out to her for anything other than a cynical misuse of his office for political advantage via an unvetted volunteer!
She was upset that her privacy was invaded and Baz (and Mick) knew her name, that she lives in Brindabella and that they have her mobile number. How?
Then the same thing happened to me and, like Amy, I’m angry about it.
This time it was Murrumbidgee’s queen of Canberra’s crimpers and MLA Bec Cody texting me with an “IMPORTANT” message (not).
“Hi Ian, I’m Bec Cody, your local Labor member. Just letting you know that Pre-Poll is now open at Cooleman Court and Woden Town Centre! If you’d like more information on How to Vote please get back in touch!”
So I did get back in touch because, apart from being affronted by her redundant use of exclamation marks, I have an unidentified number and asked: “How did you get my phone number and name?”
Needless to say there has been no response from Bec on 0480 019270.
But it does raise the point; how did these ratbags, both government members, get people’s names and mobile phone numbers and won’t tell us how. That’s it; I’m counting the sleeps.
Ian Meikle is the editor of “CityNews” and can be heard every week on 2CC’s “CityNews Sunday Roast”, 9am-noon. This weekend’s program will review the aftermath of the ACT election.