A FAR RIGHT Benalla group claims the office of the Deputy Nationals leader, Senator Bridget McKenzie provided the group with Coalition campaign material.
A member of the group A Stand in the Park Benalla (ASIP Benalla) made the claim in a video posted on Facebook. The group’s leadership includes Bruce Evans, a self-described far right white nationalist.
Up until Saturday ASIP Benalla was the only ‘No’ campaign in town. The group is a mix of far right activists, anti-vaxxers, anti-lockdown activists and conspiracy theorists.
The video is recorded by Evans and his voice is heard asking an unidentified female campaigner where she obtained the (Coalition) campaign material.
Unknown campaigner: Yeah at the Nationals stand over at the thing [markets]. Bridget McKenzie’s people are over there.
Evans: Oh really?
Unknown campaigner: And she wants to get a photo of all of us.
On Saturday, McKenzie’s office had a stall at the local market staffed by one person. It was the first occasion either Coalition party have been seen campaigning on-the-ground in Benalla.
Interestingly, the first day a Coalition partner turns up for the campaign in my town (a single Nat from over 100km away), the local vaccination and conspiracy cranks, led by a far right white supremacist type, suddenly have Advance's campaign material.🤔 pic.twitter.com/XF1HbzeUV4— jansant (@Jansant) September 24, 2023
Evans describes himself as a far right white nationalist:
Yes, ONE of our group is far right, just me.Evans on Facebook
There are no ‘white supremacists’, but there is one ‘white nationalist’, and that is me … …
Earlier this month No Fibs published a story about unlawful election material ASIP Benalla was displaying and distributing. When No Fibs sought comment from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), in part they responded:
Important to note that the AEC has long taken a graduated approach to enforcement around authorisations matters for which the first step is to seek a remedy. In the past, authorisations matters have occurred where the AEC has asked for a remedy – these matters have resulted in remedies being applied swiftly and in full. In recognition of public interest in these matters, and the AEC’s graduated approach to enforcement, this has been the end of those matters.AEC
SO NOW WE ARE BEING ATTACKED BY THE AEC BECAUSE OUR VOTE NO POSTERS AND FLAG ARE NOT ‘AUTHORISED … … So now we are being threatened with legal action.Bruce Evans – Facebook – 12 September
Shop owners and staff in the town have been abused and harassed for displaying ‘Yes’ campaign material, and one business owner had “Vote No” spray painted on their premises after an incident. Another has been forced to put a sign on Yes brand copy paper stating it is unrelated to the referendum.
A historic railway building has also had “Vote No” spray painted on it.
According to Benalla Rural City Council local laws, a permit is required if campaigners are setting up signage or obstructing the footpath.
The ASIP Benalla ‘No’ campaign has not applied for a permit. The Yes23 campaign has obtained a permit.
ASIP Benalla use two locations on opposite sides of Bridge St blocking footpaths – their banners and signs are attached to council furniture and structures. They also use council seating and benches to hold their flyers and other campaign materials preventing shoppers from using the amenities.
The group has also had stalls at the local markets.
Prior to a July Yes23 event in Wodonga, online threats were made against Helen Haines MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and attendees by far right “Freedom 4.0” activist, Mark Mack. Subsequently there was a strong police presence at the event.
Mack attends events run by A Stand in the Park groups.
Bruce Evans is an associate of Mark Mack and in the video below at an ASIP Benalla event, Evans introduces Mack as a “good mate”.
On Saturday police spoke to the two groups campaigning in Benalla.
Senator McKenzie’s office has been contacted for a response.