Volunteers abused: ‘We’ve been called scum and baby killers’
VOLUNTEERS at pre-polling booths have been called scum, baby killers and subjected to gay slurs, prompting one volunteer to call it the nastiest election in her 15 years of campaigning.
Greens campaigner Jenny Mulkearns posted a plea on Facebook urging people not to vent their anger and frustration at volunteers ahead of the weekend's vote.
"I have heard of volunteers being verbally abused at pre-polling. This is not on. I don't care what your politics are - please do not make this a time to abuse people, whether you agree with their politics or not," she wrote.
Ms Mulkearns said she was prompted to make the post after hearing about incidents at pre-polling booths in Oxley and across Brisbane.
"I've been involved in elections for a number of years, and I've probably never encountered what we're encountering this year, from other volunteers as well," she said.
"To encounter really bad behaviour - and some of the language - and what volunteers are being called, is quite inappropriate."
"The major part is between volunteers being quite disrespectful, but you'll also get people that will come in and tell you their opinion, and often none of it is very nice," she said.
"We've had 'I don't like you before' but this year there's been some pretty poor language in relation to some of the things that people have called other volunteers. One of our other volunteers was actually called scum."
Gay and lesbian Greens volunteers have also been targeted, Ms Mulkearns said.
"I think a lot of our same-sex attracted volunteers have been targeted by other parties, particularly the conservative groups about their lifestyle choices, and it's been quite atrocious. No-one deserves to have that thrown at them for a few hours," she said.
"I myself was told at the weekend that we support killing babies by another volunteer."
Ms Mulkearns said that behaviour was unacceptable.
"I've been involved in campaigns for 15 years and this is unprecedented. I call it hate speech," she said.
"I think when you give a voice to this, our democracy loses when we start calling each other names. And this is pre-poll. This is not even polling day."
"I think it's largely other volunteers that are baiting each other to try and get a rise. I tried to walk away on the weekend, but when there's language thrown about and actual verbal abuse, that's when we have to call it out," she said.
"You expect a certain amount - it comes with the territory. And you go yep, whatever, but this year has been some of the worst we've seen."
Ms Mulkearns said signs had also been defaced in years gone by, but there was a more menacing element this election.
"You've seen signs defaced, and I've got no problem with the moustache, but this year we've seen swastikas. We've gone from 'someone put horns on my head' to words that are disgusting - that's when you realise we've stepped over a line in our democracy," she said.
"The language and the abuse has been quite unprecedented. There's anecdotal evidence that it's happening in other areas as well. The majority is from volunteers, but there are obviously members of the public who take it upon themselves to tell you what they think."
A spokesman for the Australian Electoral Commission said they had no statistics on the numbers of complaints made about the behaviour of volunteers at polling booths.
"The activities and behaviour of volunteers outside pre-polling booths is not a matter for the AEC," he said.