Misleading? party cost Anthony election

By ZOE SATHERLEY zsatherley@northern- star.com.au

MISLEADING how-to-vote cards from a minor party cost former Youth and Families Minister Larry Anthony the seat of Richmond at the 2004 election campaign, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

However, Mr Anthony's successor, Labor MP Justine Elliot, last night rejected the inquiry findings, describing them as a 'stunt' by the Coalition.

After a month-long inquiry, the Committee on Electoral Matters yesterday found that minor party Liberals for Forests spilled the vote away from Mr Anthony by presenting themselves as members of the Liberal Party of Australia.

The report from the inquiry does not suggest at any point that the Labor Party or Ms Elliot had any connection with the Liberals for Forests or its campaign.

Federal Gold Coast (Liberal) MP Steven Ciobo, who is on the Joint Standing Committee, last night said the inquiry found only 151 voters needed to be misled to affect the result and 'rob' the seat from Mr Anthony.

"This was a dirty tricks campaign from the beginning, which unfairly robbed the seat from Larry Antho- ny and misled the locals," Mr Ciobo said.

However Ms Elliot described the claims as a 'cheap political stunt'.

"The people of Richmond are not interested in these stunts," she said.

"I am very proud and honoured to have been elected the Federal representative for Richmond.

"I am always focusing on the future and standing up for our community on the issues that are important to us."

But Mr Ciobo said the committee found Ms Elliot was elected as a result of preferences on the basis of deceptions by the WA-based Liberals for Forests.

"What also amazes me is the fact Ms Elliot did not turn up to the hearings in relation to this matter or reply to correspondence we sent to her."

The confusing how-tovote cards had a similar style and featured the same colours as the Liberal Party how-to-vote cards, the committee found.

"During the hearings, we heard from many locals who believed they were deceived by the Liberals for Forests Party, set up to steer votes away from the Nationals," Mr Ciobo said.

"On the basis of direct and anecdotal evidence, it is clear a substantial number of voters were tricked."

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