By ANDREW CHUTER
The NRMA’s Returning Officer has issued a warning to one of the two candidates for the Harbour Region because information about his candidacy appeared on an anti-Westconnex Facebook site, a site that the candidate has no control over and has never visited.
The NRMA Candidates Code of Conduct 2019 Election of Directors Rule H 7. Social Media and the Internet states “Candidates must not permit any organisation or body (other than the NRMA) to display or include material on its websites or social media platforms, or in its emails, about the Candidate or any other Candidate (and, to the extent Candidates are able to do so, must prevent this from occurring)”.
Mr Peter Hehir, who is the convenor of Rozelle resident group RAW (Rozelle Against WestConnex) says he “Doesn’t use Facebook, nor does he have any idea, or even want to know how Facebook works”.
RAW however does have a Facebook site which can only be accessed by RAW Facebook members. Mr Hehir says “He has never seen it, nor does he have a clue how it operates.
Two members of RAW’s Executive are the site’s sole admin officers and they have total control over the content and operation of the page. All members of RAW are eligible to join, provided they agree with RAW’s Mission Statement and Code of Conduct”.
The NRMA warning referred to a post on another site.
No tunnel vision
Mr Hehir is worried that others among the tens of thousands in the Harbour Region who are genuinely concerned at the many negative impacts of WestConnex; which includes the yet to be approved Stage 4 – aka the Western Harbour Tunnel – may also unwittingly post something supporting his candidacy which may jeopardise his campaign.
Mr Hehir requests that his supporters not post anything on any group, body or organisation’s social media site about his involvement with the NRMA elections.
“Offers of support from individuals are most welcome but further social media posts such as the one that came to the attention of the Returning Officer could well impact on my candidacy. If this practice were to be repeated it could conceivably even hand the Harbour Region to Mr Trumper, without the need of an election and 315,000 NRMA members wouldn’t get the opportunity to consider an alternative perspective.”
The rules for candidates do allow an individual to email, tweet or Instagram election material in support of a candidate, as long as it’s not on a group’s site.
However Candidates aren’t permitted “to send an email or text message to someone that they don’t know” as this is also a breach and contravenes the NRMA Candidates Code of Conduct 2019 Election of Directors Rule F.
Mr Hehir says “It’s tough enough to mount a campaign – let alone one against a sitting Director who is also the Chairman of the NRMA – when Candidates are prevented from “making any statements endorsing, or referring to, the intentions, polices or objectives of any organisation or body (other than the NRMA)”.
This appears to restrict Mr Hehir from talking about the specific policies of RAW and only allows him to speak in general terms about the broader community based campaign against WestConnex, provided that no direct reference is made to the policies of any of the anti-WestConnex groups.
“This does place me in a difficult position” says Mr Hehir. “Clearly I have a duty to the members of RAW to continue to campaign against the yet-to-be-approved Western Harbour Tunnel – which was formally known as Stage 4 of WestConnex before WestConnex as a brand became toxic – and at the same time not fall foul of the NRMA Election Rules.
“I believe it’s really important that members of the NRMA be given sufficient information to enable them to cast an informed vote, including making them aware of my association with RAW”.
The rules for the election give the NRMA the absolute right to terminate a candidate’s campaign for any deliberate breach of the rules.
The NRMA Candidates Code of Conduct 2019 Election of Directors Rule J. Breach of this Code states that;
“If a Candidate commits a breach of this Code, NRMA may take such action as it considers necessary to enforce compliance with this Code, and may, at its discretion, also terminate the candidacy of that Candidate (which means that the person will not be able to continue to stand for election, and will cease to be a candidate, in the 2019 election of Directors).
In making any decision under this section, NRMA is not required to give the Candidate any notice or opportunity of being heard, providing any explanations, furnishing any evidence, or making any objection.
A decision of NRMA under this section is final and Candidates will have no right of appeal.”