We are thankfully approaching the end of a long election campaign that has not been short of a bit of byplay and underhanded tactics. Early in the race, someone with a bit of time on their hands went around much of the electorate of Braddon and painted a gimp mask over Brett Whitely’s face on most his posters. Many people felt this was humorous and quite appropriate, sharing it enthusiastically on social media. While I may personally agree that the mask is a pretty good representation of Whitely’s value to the Australian people, I couldn’t agree with this type of strategy.
Whitely’s signs aren’t the only ones that have been the subject of some creative vandalism. The malevolent minister of immigration has some similar treatment, while GetUp have created posters that when placed beneath Malcolm Turnbull’s own posters appear to show him crossing his fingers whilst making his promises.
Other seemingly innocuous incidents have included hoax texts and emails purporting to be from candidates- including the PM himself- apologising for their performance and suggesting voters vote for someone else. Luxury toaster enthusiast and assistant treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, has even had a hoax facebook account set up in her name.
All of this seems pretty harmless, but I still feel it crosses a line. It could be argued that if candidates are going to be dishonest in their promises (yes, messers Dutton, Turnbull and Morrison, I am talking about you gentlemen again) they are breaking any compact with the electorate and
Firstly this would be appalling if it was being done by armies of Labor and Liberal volunteers to disrupt less well-resourced independent candidates’ campaigns. Secondly you have to wonder if it actually has much of an impact. Most people that approved of any disruptive pranks would already have no intention of voting for the candidate in question. However undecided voters might actually be persuaded to vote for them as a sympathetic response to what they see as unfair treatment.
Most importantly, once we remove the taboo from interfering with the campaigns of candidates, where is the new line for propriety? It becomes a subjective question which is open to wildly different interpretations. The scum who vandalised the property of Green’s candidate, Scott Jordan and terrorised his daughter are a pretty good example of why we can’t leave it up to individual judgement on what type of interference is appropriate in a campaign.
I am not saying the despicable creatures responsible for the attempted intimidation of Scott Jordan are in any way justified by any of the preceding behaviours. I am saying that once people start crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed it is harder than they might expect to draw a new line that people won’t cross.