Have you received a weird ‘letter’ from your neighbour? This could be what’s going on
Elise Worthington and Ariel Bogle have this story:
You’ve been sending in examples of mysterious political letters that have been turning up in your mailbox over the last few weeks and the ABC’s hidden campaign team has been taking a look. Here’s what they found.
The George Paul letter
This hand signed letter went out to 30,000 voters in McKellar from a retiree called George Paul. He was warning voters about independent Sophie Scamps, claiming she was dishonest and encouraging voters to think twice.
It was sent in by a reader who noticed it didn’t have any kind of Authorisation on it. During the election anything classified as political communication is required by the AEC to be authorised. That’s material that “is communicated, or intended to be communicated, for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote in a federal election”.
We tracked down George Paul, a staunch liberal voter at his retirement village in Belrose.
He told the ABC he came up with the idea himself and spent ten thousand dollars of his own money to have the letter printed and delivered by a distributor.
“I wrote it because I’m frustrated by the so called independents trying to destroy a government who has done really well for this country”
“A vote for the independents is a vote to change the government,” he said.
VERDICT: The AEC says at first glance it looks like the letter should be authorised and they would like get in touch with Mr Paul, who remains defiant.
“I could not imagine a life worse than having Anthony Albanese in office. It would be an embarrassment” Mr Paul remarked.
The Jason Falinski letter
This letter was sent in by readers on Sydney’s Northern beaches. It’s in similar handwritten font and claims to be from a former employee of Mr Felinski, Andrea Wallis who is effusive in her praise.
“Over many years Jason modelled hard work, curiosity and kindness” it states.
“I didn’t ever feel like I was up to his standard of intelligence and ability because I wasn’t but in all of those years Jason did not see any of that”
We tracked down Ms Wallis who said she wrote the letter and wholeheartedly supports Mr Falinski.
She facetimed the ABC wearing a Falinski campaign shirt and said she stands by everything she wrote.
VERDICT: While the person who sent this letter in thought it was suspicious, we’ve checked and this letter was actually written by Andrea, is authorised by the Liberal Party and doesn’t appear to breach any AEC rules.
The Warringah letter
This final letter, in a similar font, claims to be from a ‘a concerned neighbour’ called ‘Stephanie‘ but the style and printing suggests that it was professionally mass produced.
It includes a good dose of COVID-19 scepticism (“the so-called world pandemic seems to have been exaggerated in its severity”).
The letter is critical of independent candidate Zali Steggall and supports United Australia Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.
It states “I’ll be putting liberal, labor, the greens and Zali Steggall LAST on the ballot paper. I encourage you to do the same” and instead advocates that voters pick UAP or One Nation. “Never before have I felt compelled to speak out in this manner… declaring that I’m voting for a non-major party and inviting you to join me.”
VERDICT: This one has already been referred to the AEC by our tipster because it doesn’t contain any authorisation or indication of who really wrote it.
The ABC called every person called “Stephanie” we could find living in Warringah and couldn’t find the “Stephanie” who sent the letter. The UAP and One Nation candidates told us they had also received the letter, but denied having anything to do with it or knowing who wrote it.
The wrap up
The message to voters, be skeptical about what you read and check for an authorisation. If you see anything sketchy, write in to Hidden Campaign. You can also contact the AEC.