Why public corruption allegations may cease at 2020 poll

21st April 2017 5:00 AM
VOCAL: Mayor Paul Pisasale leaves the CCC hearing after airing his own views on stamping out candidates making baseless allegations during election campaigns. VOCAL: Mayor Paul Pisasale leaves the CCC hearing after airing his own views on stamping out candidates making baseless allegations during election campaigns. DAN PELED

MAYOR Paul Pisasale and the CCC are on the same page when it comes to the issue of public allegations of corruption during election campaigns.

At the end of Cr Pisasale's giving of evidence at the Crime and Corruption Commission public hearing on Wednesday the above mentioned issue was the subject of discussion between the mayor and the CCC hearing's presiding officer Alan MacSporran.

Cr Pisasale expressed his own view about legislating against the misuse of social media.

"Some people misused Facebook, and there's common knowledge in some of that, and you guys would have been inundated with complaints," he said.

"There's got to be some way of protecting people and there's got to be some penalty for people misusing the Commission and misusing the Electoral Commission for their own advantage and their own political purposes to try and sway the vote, especially through the use of digital media now.

"The digital space is alive and well, but I don't think the laws have caught up with the digital age."

The Ipswich local government election was full of vitriol and corruption allegations were made by certain candidates on social media platforms.

If a CCC recommendation is adopted the 2020 election may well be a more civil affair.

What the organisation is aiming to prevent is candidates, in effect, publicly saying: "You are corrupt and I have told the CCC you are corrupt."

Mr MacSporran said the CCC ran a public forum last October where it examined "whether it should be allowed, or in the public interest, that people can complain to us and make it publicly known that they have complained to us during an election campaign, such as the one you went through last March".

"You would be aware that we recommended that there should be a prohibition on people being able to publicly say and make allegations of corruption and say that they've made the allegations to us before we'd had a chance to investigate them," he said.

"We were simply recommending there be a moratorium, if you like, of a short three-month period while we looked into the allegation. If there was nothing in it, we'd say so and there would be no harm done. And if there was something in it, we'd investigate it and expose it."

Mr MacSporran told Cr Pisaale that the idea behind the recommendation was to protect people like the mayor from being the subject of baseless allegations during an election campaign.

Cr Pisasale said he "hundred per cent" supported that view and added that unsubstantiated allegations against him were not policed during last year's election.

He said that each time there was an allegation made "the media would find out within 24 hours and I had a phone call"

"It was just ongoing... and the only protection I've had, Commissioner, is to get my own legal advice and seek injunctions against those people when I have been begging for assistance and help," he said.

"So I would welcome it, and every other candidate and every other decent politician in this country would welcome it.

"I've written to the Electoral Commission, and I've had no responses, of some of the things that were happening to me and my family...and I can tell you that as far as I'm concerned, the Electoral Commission was understaffed.

"I've still got emails that I've sent to the Electoral Commission that haven't been responded to."