Outgoing Liberal MP Jackie Kelly says a bogus pamphlet that portrays Labor as sympathisers of Islamic terrorists and was distributed by her husband was just a “Chaser-style of prank”.
The Liberal Party was flailing last night after a senior NSW party official and Ms Kelly’s husband, Gary Clarke, were implicated in the dirty tricks campaign involving race hate in Ms Kelly’s former western suburbs seat of Lindsay.
The ALP has written to the Australian Electoral Commission demanding action be taken after Ms Kelly’s husband, Gary Clark, and NSW Liberal Party state executive member Jeff Egan were caught distributing bogus pamphlets in Lindsay portraying Labor as sympathisers of Islamic terrorists.
The two were among a group of five caught and photographed in the act by Labor sleuths on Tuesday night.
Speaking on ABC radio this morning, Ms Kelly said she did not approve of the pamphlet, but labelled it a “Chaser-style of prank”, a reference to ABC TV comedy team The Chaser.
“I think its intent is to be a send-up but obviously it hasn’t worked,” she said.
“I think if you read it you’d be laughing. Most people who have read it have said ‘That’s a Chaser-style of prank’.”
Ms Kelly said the “prank” was “really immature stuff” that would not influence any voters.
Ms Kelly described her husband’s actions as “skylarking” after a few beers.
“I’m a bit upset with him, but no, look I love him,” she told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
“He hates the unions with a passion and after weeks and weeks of letterboxing, what gets to be boring material, of a repetitive message that we get them to letterbox all the time, they come up with their own skylarking over a few beers and think that something’s funny,” Ms Kelly said
Ms Kelly also accused Labor members of going after the Liberal workers who were distributing the pamphlets.
“An ALP goon squad, which I understand was led by some unionists, have chased down and hunted down and tried to intimidate. I understand there was even a fight,” Ms Kelly told ABC radio today.
Labor’s national secretary, Tim Gartrell, names Mr Clark, Mr Egan and Troy Craig, president of the Glenmore Park Action Group, in his complaint to the commission, and urges the matter be referred to the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police.
The scandal was the last thing John Howard needed as he tried to resuscitate his campaign before Saturday, and will likely overshadow his final speech to the National Press Club today.
The bogus pamphlet carries the ALP logo and is from the non-existent “Islamic Australia Federation”. It applauds the Labor Party for supporting Muslim terrorists.
It thanks Labor for supporting the Bali bombers, who it says were “unjustly” sentenced to death, says Labor backs the building of a new local mosque, and praises the party for allowing Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly to live in Australia.
“We gratefully acknowledge Labors [sic] support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings,” it says.
“Labor supports our new Mosque construction and we hope, with the support and funding by Local and State governments, to open our new Mosque in St Mary’s soon.”
Labor’s candidate for Lindsay, David Bradbury, called it “a disgraceful act”. The ALP campaign spokeswoman, Penny Wong, demanded the Liberals reveal what level sanctioned the behaviour. “People who are very senior in the NSW division of the Liberal Party are involved,” she said.
The Liberal Party NSW director, Graham Jaeschke, said he became aware of the incident on Tuesday night. Two of the people involved were Liberal members. Both, including Mr Egan, were suspended from the party. All five have been banned from the campaign. Mr Jaeschke said they were “over-enthusiastic individuals”. “They were not authorised. We condemn the action and the people involved are no longer members of the party.”
The Liberals’ campaign spokesman, Andrew Robb, said the action was not sanctioned from on high. “Silly things happen, wrong things happen, this was wrong, it was offensive, it was unauthorised, there was no knowledge off the party,” he said.
In other incidents, it has been reported car windows were smashed in North Sydney, paint stripper dumped on a car in Bennelong, and signs defaced in Wentworth.
The Liberal MP for Macarthur, Pat Farmer, said his campaign had been targeted during the past fortnight, with vandals burning an election billboard, defacing posters and spray-painting his home and office.