A MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire election candidate has defended his right to place a full-page newspaper advertisement naming candidates who support his “down with rates” campaign.
Briars ward candidate John Woodman said he was not breaching any Victorian Electoral Commission rules by placing the ad, which lists candidates who have indicated support for a reduction in rates and council debt.
But the move has drawn strong criticism from several candidates, who claim the move is “electioneering” and “unethical”.
Candidates were made aware of Mr Woodman’s plans after he distributed a pamphlet asking them to tick “yes” or “no” to rates and debt reduction, and informing them their answers and names would appear in a full page advertisement.
Mr Woodman initially wanted to also name candidates who did not respond to his poll, as well as candidates who responded “no”, but backed down before going to print.
Red Hill ward candidate David Gill slammed the tactic, saying the advertisement was an electoral ploy.
“I don’t believe this is about good policy or an interest in the community, it’s about electioneering,” he said.
“The real issue here is, does a candidate understand local council?”
The Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association – which is backing several candidates – questioned the ethics of the advertisement.
President Doris Campbell described Mr Woodman’s survey of candidates’ responses as a “push-pull’ tactic, with the inference being that if candidates don’t respond, they don’t support the sensible management of rates and debt”.
“Some candidates are being advised to say yes, so what is the value of the survey? It certainly does not meet the ethical standards of validity associated with proper social research,” she said.
Cerberus ward candidate Blair Heading thought Mr Woodman risked breaching VEC rules if he had proceeded with his plan to include the names of councillors without their permission.
Briars ward candidate Leigh Eustace said the “tick” option of the survey was “insufficient” and poorly presented, with the question of rates reduction needing a more thorough investigation.
Seawinds ward candidate Jane Clarke told The News that she did not give permission for Mr Woodman to publish her views.
“I believe his proposed actions are in breach of the Local Government Act (1989), section 55A(1),” she said.
“I have also lodged a formal complaint with the VEC regarding this matter.”
Mornington electoral officer Julie Allan said Mr Woodman was not breaching VEC rules as the advertisement included the authorising person’s name and address.
“He is perfectly within his rights as long as it’s authorised,” she said.
Despite the reaction to his promotional material, Mr Woodman, who heads Watsons Pty Ltd, the Mornington-based project development firm, vowed to continue with the campaign.
He said it was “the sensible thing” to try to reduce rates and debt, and that the “nuts and bolts” of his efficiency polices would be worked out once he was on council.
“The voters of the Mornington Peninsula need to know before we vote for candidates in the forthcoming election next month if when elected these new councillors are going to continue with the good work of the most recent council and their efforts to reduce rates, charges, and debt,” Mr Woodman said.