Late last year West Australian MPs received over 2,000 emails from concerned community members encouraging them to oppose the Coalition’s Prevention of Lawful Activity bill via Do Gooder.
The bill, designed to give government – and ultimately companies – the right to fine and jail people for the non-violent and democratic expression of dissent, has been seen by many as an attempt to disempower communities on a range of issues. Organisations like the Law Society of Western Australia have also been quick to add their voice agains the bill.
Just another conservative policy meets community outrage so far right? Well here’s where it gets interesting. When just two supporters of the campaign (equating to 0.1% of the total) received a follow up email from the Nationals MP Martin Aldridge they failed to recall, that they had in fact filled out a handwritten form at an event. That form was later transcribed & sent as an email on Do Gooder to Mr Martin Aldridge. In a move that has us scratching our heads here at DG HQ, Mr Aldridge decided the matter was worthy of the time of the WA Police!
In response, WA Police were quick to dismiss any possibility of fraudulent or criminal activity. Not satisfied with this or from a detailed response from us which made the points above clear, Mr Aldridge appears to have alerted the Murdoch owned West Australian which then published an apoplectic article that tried to beat the story up into an attack on the legitimacy of online campaigning more generally. Quite a leap!
Needless to say, we were amused and heartened by the West Australian’s “coverage.” When you see Murdoch tabloids clutching at straws and peddling half truths to discredit you – well, you know you’re probably on the right track! Seeing our elected representatives play this game too is less amusing and, in fact, deeply worrying.
Online campaigning has become one of the most effective tools modern democracy has to empower people to take part and to have their voice heard on issues that affect their lives. The fact that we are seeing conservative politicians attempt to fabricate uncertainty about community lobbying tools suggests they fear it and the transparency and accountability it encourages (and let’s be clear, that they should be upholding!).
As for Mr Aldridge, our advice would be to continue to read, respond and act upon the opinions of the other 99.9 % of messages he received – all overwhelmingly opposed to the Prevention of Lawful Activity bill – rather than desperately looking for ways to delegitimise the voices of the people he is paid to serve.
(Photo by Lena Yang on The Cord)