(L to R) Dario Centrella, Geoff Russell and Tony Tonkin of the Votley Crew

The minor parties of South Australia band together with some demands; Georgina Downer’s silence spreads to her Facebook page; and Craig Kelly, please learn what treason is.

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours…

Operation try again. Revelations on Sunday that NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts had a meeting with Chinese developers set up by disgraced MP Daryl Maguire sparked a flurry of activity within Roberts’ department. Bureaucrats were asked to scour departmental records to track down anything related to Roberts’ (brief) meeting with execs from the Hong Kong-based Country Garden company. They even gave the search a code name: Operation Dasher. We’re not sure Sam Dastyari is the best precedent to be invoking for Roberts’ career.

Downer silence spreads to Facebook comments. It appears that it’s not just asking about Georgina Downer’s views on climate change that will get you blocked (as chronicled on Tuesday by Simon Holmes á Court) — her moderators also don’t care a jot for being pulled up on questionable word choices. A tipster (who is a Rebekha Sharkie volunteer) got in contact to say that they had taken exception to her use of the word “fatwah” in her comments about the “environmentalists’ fatwah against carbon”.

They claims the comment contained no offensive language or personal insults. “I simply made the point that the Australian Intelligence and Security Services rely on the support and cooperation of Australian Muslims in fighting terrorism — is it wise to use fatwah in the way Ms Downer did and risk offending the very people whose assistance is needed to fight terrorism ?” The says they were blocked almost immediately. 

“My social media accounts have been spammed by hundreds of internet trolls aligned to the Labor Party, GetUp and the Greens who are supporting Rebekah Sharkie,” Downer told Crikey. “My priority is to interact with Mayo residents on the issues that matter most to them.”

Stopping the Votes? A merry band of South Australian minor parties — dubbing themselves the Votley Crew — are calling upon the newly-elected South Australian government to reform the state’s electoral act. They want the Electoral Commission of SA investigated, to prevent a repeat of what they call “the disenfranchisement of around 74,000 South Australian minor party voters at the last state election” thanks to vote exhaustion.

The Votley Crew is made up of representatives from the Animal Justice, Dignity, Child Protection and Liberal Democrats Parties (pictured above).

The crew have been particularly critical of the ESCA for what they call “very poor” communication about the changes to the voting requirements that took place prior to the last South Australian election which they feel contributed to the number of exhausted votes.

“Vote-exhaustion is a problem when voters aren’t informed their vote will be cast aside if their preference is unsuccessful,” said group spokesman Dario Centrella. “ECSA is partly to blame because they failed to inform voters.”

A spokesperson from the ECSA said they had not yet directly heard from the group, but rejected the idea that voters were not sufficiently informed:

Instructions on how to complete a vote for the Legislative Council are included on all ballot papers and inform the voter how to complete the ballot paper either above or below the line. Further, all polling officials are instructed to provide guidance to voters in line with the instructions on the ballot paper.

Our advertising campaign in the final phase related to completing ballot papers and these messages were directed towards placing the number one and any other numbers the voter might choose above the line, or to number at least 12 preferences below the line.

In the age of treason. On Tuesday, Perth man Anthony Maslin — the father of three children who were among the 298 people killed when MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine by Russian back separatists in 2014 — shared a Facebook post attacking US President Donald Trump for his “arse-kissing” performance in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obviously tired of seeing the little guy trampled by social media outrage, Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly took to Sky to defend Trump and Putin, saying Russia’s possible involvement in the murder of Australian citizens ought to be “looked over” for the sake of good relations.

Kelly followed up with the worst conceivable non-apology on Radio National this morning: “If my comments were taken out of context and have been blown up I certainly apologise to everyone” (Why, in the name of Christ, would you use the phrase “blown up”?). 

All this reminded Ms Tips of the time, earlier this month, Kelly described “demonising” coal as “an act of treason”.

We got curious and had a quick gander at what constitutes treason under Australian law. We couldn’t find any reference to being mean about a particular export. But conduct which assists a country or organisation engaged in armed hostilities against the Australian Defence Force — which we came fairly close to over MH17 — is in there.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey