The high road or the low road to a seat at Pelican Street

As the Noosa Council election looms, I am reminded how wonderful it is not to be a candidate this time. I have stood in four local government elections and been elected three times. Each election presented its unique challenges. 

However, it is also true to say that the presence of social media has increasingly infected politics, and not in a good way. We all know that some keyboard warriors are happy to write things on social media that they wouldn’t dare say to your face. Unfortunately, these bile-driven people become further emboldened when others of their ilk join their pile-on. When campaigns devolve to vicious personal attacks and conspiracy theories, then you know that democracy has unravelled just a little bit further. 

Not everyone will play by the rules during an election campaign. There are those whose approach to politics is to win at any cost. I just hope that none of the contenders in this current election are subject to some of the tactics that I copped in the 2020 election. One such gambit was the illegal stealing of my signage. During that campaign, all of my corflute signs between Tewantin and Peregian were pilfered, bar one. 

I stuck to the rules regarding corflute signs. I didn’t place them in road reserves. I only positioned them on the boundaries of private properties, and always with permission of the owners. 

Dozens of my corflute signs disappeared, almost always within 24 hours of being erected, inevitably at night. Many were on backstreets. The clear implication was that the efforts to remove my signage had to involve more than one person: it would have required a coordinated effort to locate each sign so quickly. Even when we replaced the signs, they were gone within a day. This went on for weeks.

The one sign that remained extant was in Poinciana Street Tewantin, on the fence of former councillor Olive Donaldson’s home. Well, the first sign that was placed there did disappear. But we replenished it, and at the same time screwed a dummy surveillance camera on the house. Plainly, whoever was removing the signs knew they were breaking the law and so left this one alone.

Another worrying trend is for people to use legal threats as a tactic. During the 2020 campaign, my wife, members of my campaign team, and a large number of my supporters each received a letter, printed on legal letterhead, threatening defamation action on behalf of Leigh McCready. She wasn’t a candidate at that election, simply a participant in the campaign for The Future Noosa Team, from which Karen Finzel was elected. 

So, what was the transgression that supposedly warranted this threat of defamation action? The people who received the legal letters had shared a Facebook post written by another party. In that post, Leigh McCready was referred to as a developer. Absurdly, the partner of one of my campaign team who received one of these letters didn’t have a Facebook page and never used social media.

At the time, McCready claimed she was simply the wife of a developer, and therefore not an actual developer. But the Independent Council Election Observer found that, “Clearly Ms McCready easily falls into the definition of property developer…” not only because she was a spouse of a developer, but also a 50% shareholder of McCready Holdings P/L which owned 50% of Head Constructions P/L. The ICEO concluded that, with regard to a media release from Karen Finzel and her fellow Future Noosa candidates, “I am satisfied that the media statement disavowing any connection to property developers is false and accordingly misleading.”

Noosa politics has really devolved over recent years, certainly since I became involved in the de-amalgamation campaign. But we can always aspire to something better. What sort of community do we want? Our community leaders have an important role to play in establishing the tone of debate for the community at large. Do we want that debate to be respectful or malicious?

I do want to take this opportunity to point out that the best opponent I have ever gone up against was Sandy Bolton. The 2016 mayoral campaign was almost a pleasure. Sandy not only fought fair, but she was also a gracious loser. After watching the ABC series Nemesis, that seems to be a rare thing in high-stakes politics.

Noosa MP Sandy Bolton & Tony Wellington

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Avatar

    I put up Greens candidate corflutes Northern beaches NSW and same thing happened and must be an LNP policy unwritten as Labor was not a threat in what is a Teal electorate now.

Leave a Reply