The federal campaign in McPherson on the Gold Coast has gone off with a bang following what appears to be LNP intimidation. First hand witness Matthew Donovan explains.
GAIL HISLOP is the Labor candidate for McPherson. I have been very active in helping her campaign.
In the name of transparency, I have been quite open in the past that I am a Labor member and former Labor candidate. I'm proud of these facts.
I write this time about a very disappointing occurrence that happened last Saturday. The reason I do so is because I think it is emblematic of my wider concerns about the LNP Newman Government and Tony Abbott's Coalition.
An important aspect of any campaign is community engagement. For months now, Gail has been working hard to get the message out in the community about her federal campaign and listen to voters.
As part of this concerted effort she has been regularly stalling at the local Burleigh markets.
She takes along a table and some chairs, some signs as well as petitions to be signed and information to provide the public. I join her regularly to offer my support in any way I can.
She sits at her stall – from 9am to midday – waiting for people to approach her to discuss issues that concern them. A very laid back and welcoming approach.
The LNP are often there doing their own thing and that is their right.
There had been no dramas, until last Saturday......
I arrived first, well before anyone else. Eventually a few volunteers started to arrive and then Gail and the gear arrived.
We staked out our usual spot, that had been sought through the proper channels with market management as always.
While we were in the very early stages of setting up we were approached by a woman. She was openly hostile and seemed to want to have a fight rather than talk calmly about the issues we were discussing. I tried to engage her and calm her down but she wasn't having any of it. I stood my dig. She stormed off and I thought nothing more of it.
Eventually other volunteers came to the realisation they had seen her hanging around the tent of Michael Hart, the LNP Member for Burleigh.
Just as I was processing this information we had market staff tell us they had a problem and we had to leave. We quizzed them and were told Michael Hart wasn't happy with us being there or about the signs we had with us.
There were extended talks and eventually it was decided we could stay as long as we moved to the back of the markets. We were disappointed but happy we could remain and support our candidate.
Gail has her own thoughts on the events:
'This really is about control and not wanting the Gold Coast to hear any other voice other than the LNP. I believe it is up to the voters to decide. They should not use stand over tactics and try to gag a candidate.
'We live in a democratic society and people should not be fearful of standing up for what they believe in.
'Bullying simply does not work and I will not be intimidated by an adult schoolyard bully.
'Michael Hart and the LNP may be known to gag public servants but they won’t gag me.'
This was quite frankly one of the most appalling displays from an MP I have ever experienced.
I have since become aware that market staff where treated extremely badly by him and his tent as opposed to our group, though while bemused, complied with all requests.
Michael Hart has seemed very reluctant in the media to admit any fault despite the fact that Gail and her team had no interaction with him. His actions were completely uncalled for and heavy handed.
He has said:
"They had nasty, nasty slogans saying (Queensland Premier) Campbell Newman was closing down hospitals which is an absolute lie."
This is either an out and out lie or a severe misunderstanding of what the signs were about.
The signs read "Save public hospitals". Nasty, nasty stuff apparently?
This is nothing that said Premier Newman was shutting down hospitals. It is about her concerns that he will seek to privatise – as he has done on the Sunshine Coast – and sack more public servants in health.
Her concerns seem well founded given recent reports that Gold Coast Hospital patients are at risk due to changes the LNP Government has made.
Michael Hart also says:
"I highlighted it to them that these people were politicking, (the market organisers) made the rest of the decisions themselves."
Market staff were very clear we were being approached, moved and given directives due to Michael Hart's requests.
If he is trying to tell me that LNP stalls at the markets isn't "politicking" I actually can't take that seriously.
I have since written to Premier Newman requesting his official position on our ability to freely use whatever signage we desire free from interference. I am yet to receive a response.
These kind of actions by Michael Hart and the various other LNP MP scandals are emblematic of a Newman Government that is more scandal ridden and on the nose every day.
In my view, the actions and conduct of Tony Abbott over the last 3 years have not been dissimilar to the display I was treated to on Saturday.
(Disclosure: Matthew N. Donovan is a former ALP state candidate and is a Labor Party member.)
For more information on Gail's fight for McPherson click here.
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