SOME of the many signs dotting the Mornington Peninsula urging a vote for Liberal Party candidate Zoe McKenzie are attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.
Vandals have daubed signs with swear words and drawn black crosses across Ms McKenzie’s eyes, while Mornington Peninsula Shire has ordered others to be removed for violating local laws.
The vandalism also led to opposing candidates to agree on at least one issue: signs should be shown unhindered.
McKenzie posted a message on her Facebook page saying she was not surprised at the vandalism: “Women in politics cop vile abuse all too often, especially Liberal women. I’ve watched it happen to many other friends.
“I look forward to my fellow female candidates in Flinders calling out this kind of abuse. It is not enough to hope that it was not one of their supporters. This was a politically hateful act.”
Her spokesperson James Radford described the signs being daubed with “sexist, abusive and threatening language”.
“This conduct is wrong and should be called out,” he said.
“Women in politics should not have to be subjected to such appalling conduct. We strongly urge the shire to investigate.”
Regarding the signs ordered removed by the shire, Radford blamed “third party” providers.
He said some Liberal supporters believed they were entitled to display boards on their property but were unaware of the restrictions.
Radford said action had been taken “immediately” to fix the problem even where it was believed the local landholder “has been well within their rights”.
Marg D’Arcy, campaign manager for McKenzie’s Labor opponent Surbhi Snowball, said defacing signs was “completely unacceptable and we condemn it”.
“While people may feel strongly about one party or the other, this is not the way to express it,” she said.
“I am not sure that, as Zoe has suggested, it is a gender issue. Having many years of experience in elections the defacing of signs seems to be a fairly common experience and is not confined to any one particular party.”
Ms D’Arcy said she was also concerned that some of McKenzie’s supporters “seem be suggesting that it is Labor or those on the left who are responsible, without any evidence whatsoever”.
She said there had been no reports of Labor signs being vandalised “but we have had a couple of people saying they put up signs because they have been defaced in previous elections”.
Conal Feehely, campaign manager for independent Despi O’Connor, said: “We strongly condemn the defacing of other candidates’ signs. We have reached out to the affected campaigns privately on this issue and have also publicly criticised sign defacing on our social media posts.
“Our volunteer force abides by a strict code of conduct which prohibits acting or speaking negatively with regards to other candidates/campaigns.
“All volunteers have signed this code of conduct, and we can assure you that no Team Despi volunteers were involved in such vandalism.”
Feehely said investigations were being made into reports that some O’Connor signs had been torn down.
The shire’s manager of legal and governance, Amanda Sapolu, said that “from time to time” the shire received complaints about the placement of political campaign and electoral signs.
“Requests to remove non-compliant signs are dealt with by our rapid response team,” Sapolu said
“Our planning compliance and community safety officers may also remove signs where they are located on council land.
“Details of any signs removed are forwarded to the Australian Electoral Commission [and] candidates may then arrange to collect their removed signs from us.”