The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption is currently assessing alleged breaches of the Electoral Act in the lead up to the August 22 election that the NT Independent can reveal includes allegations the Territory Labor Party set up a taxpayer-funded email address for campaign purposes.
Commissioner Ken Fleming released a statement on Friday stating that his office has received “numerous reports of alleged anti-democratic conduct” relating to election activities.
While he did not reference specific matters in the statement, the NT Independent understands Territory Labor’s use of a government domain email address for party campaign business was one of the complaints received and currently being assessed for investigation.
A Labor campaign mail-out encouraging people to apply for postal votes informed people to return their application to an unusual email address. It was listed on the form as [email protected].
Political parties are not permitted to utilise taxpayer-funded email addresses as political party business is to remain separate from official government business. The @nt.gov.au domain is owned by the NT Government and not political parties.
It’s understood the email address was operational from some time in July until recently being disabled.
ALP secretary Anthony Brereton did not respond to the NT Independent’s questions about the party’s use of the email address.
CLP campaign director Sallyann Innes said Labor’s tactics were a “disgrace and a betrayal”.
“The Territory Labor Party is using the taxpayer to fund their election campaign,” she told the NT Independent. “It is a disgrace and a betrayal of the sacred trust of office.”
Specific allegations not released and could include other parties
Mr Fleming said he was currently dealing with a number of matters from “trivial to … serious” and would be assessing which ones would be “thoroughly investigated”.
“The integrity of any election is fundamental to the proper functioning of representative democracy and must be protected,” he wrote in the statement.
“I have issued this statement to ensure that the community has confidence that anti-democratic conduct will be detected and dealt with appropriately.”
Mr Fleming said offences under the Electoral Act, punishable by hefty fines, can be imposed on candidates, parties, corporations and electoral staff “amongst others”.
The offences referenced include distributing campaign material that is “likely to mislead or deceive a voter” including in an advertisement, document or other material “intended to promote the prospect of a particular candidate or group of candidates”.
Mr Fleming also referenced other offences including voting fraud – relating to “fraudulently placing a ballot paper or other paper in a ballot box” – unlawfully inducing or persuading a person to apply for a postal ballot, and improperly “influencing the exercise or performance of the Electoral Commissioner’s powers or functions”.
“All allegations in relation to offences against the Electoral Act or anti-democratic conduct will be carefully assessed and, if substantiated, they will be thoroughly investigated,” he said.