Yesterday The Border Mail reported altered how-to-vote cards had been handed out during pre-polling in Wangaratta, Northern Victoria, with Coalition partners saying a “rogue Wangaratta volunteer” was responsible.
How-to-vote cards for Tony Schneider, the Liberal candidate for Euroa, had been altered by hand, advising a below the line vote, placing National Party Legislative Council candidate for Northern Victoria Damian Drum, at number four, below Liberal Party candidates.
— bordermail (@bordermail) November 25, 2014
As per the Coalition agreement, an above the line vote as recommended on Scheider’s how-to-vote card would distribute preferences:
- Wendy Lovell (Lib)
- Damian Drum (Nat)
- Amanda Millar (Lib)
- Paul Weller (Nat)
- Adrian Woulter (Lib)
Liberal Party volunteers instructing voters to vote below the line, with a preference flow contrary to how-to-vote cards is a breach of the Coalition agreement.
No Fibs has obtained, from a reliable source, a photo of two altered how-to-vote cards with two different sets of handwriting, showing this was not the work of a lone Wangaratta volunteer. The advice on the altered how-to-vote cards is different from what was lodged with the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC).
No Fibs has also spoken to a volunteer (who wishes to remain anonymous) from another party who told us they witnessed the ‘rogue Wangaratta volunteer’ being instructed by a senior Liberal Party volunteer to alter the how-to-cards.
“They’re reasonably well established Liberal Party volunteers, I don’t know how senior in the local branch they are, but I have seen them instructing other volunteers to alter how-to-vote cards. It’s been a reasonably slow process, last week the Liberals started off by asking people if they were local and if they were verbally telling them to vote below the line, with 1, 2, 3 for the Liberals and 4, 5 for the Nationals. Then they started bailing up everybody, verbally telling them to vote below the line. On Monday, two well established Liberal volunteers (names withheld) started altering how-to-vote cards in pen. These same two volunteers also instructed other volunteers to alter how-to-vote cards.”
The witness told No Fibs she saw a different seemingly senior Liberal Party volunteer, who’s name she does not know, instruct the so called ‘rogue volunteer’ to alter how-to-vote cards.
“That’s four people I witnessed changing how-to-vote cards”
Publicly the National Party have been sticking to the official Coalition line of a single rogue volunteer, No Fibs has been told by a number of different sources local National Party members privately are furious.
Observers of local politics have told No Fibs they believe orders were given to volunteers in Wangaratta by senior local Liberal Party officials and the volunteer who was blamed yesterday is a patsy.
The Border Mail yesterday quoted a VEC spokesperson: “how-to-vote cards must be authorised under section 83 of the Electoral Act and that by altering them, it was not the same material that had been authorised”.
A VEC spokesperson told No Fibs today they will look at all evidence they are provided with.
It is an offence to change a registered how-to-vote card and also distribute altered how-to-vote cards.
Those close to local politics in Northern Victoria have expressed the view this incident is the latest in a series of Liberal Party paybacks over the loss of the federal seat of Indi by Sophie Mirabella. They also suggested it was more evidence, at least in Northern Victoria, of a serious rift in the Coalition.
During the 2013 federal election, members of the National Party, some publicly and some privately, threw their support behind the current independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, who defeated Mirabella.
In September the Liberal Party in conjuction with their Murdoch media allies launched a smear campaign against McGowan, using the young voters of Indi as sacrificial lambs to do so.
A spokesperson for the National Party said in relation to these latest developments: “it’s a matter for the Liberal Party”.
The Liberal Party could not be reached for comment – first attempt for comment “in a meeting”, subsequent attempts reached a voice mail box.
No Fibs asked Northern Victoria Greens candidate, Jenny O’Connor for comment: “It’s very interesting that the Liberal Party are attacking their Coalition partner”.
A spokesperson for the Labor Party declined to comment because they didn’t know all the details.