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Vinnies campaign hits Liberal raw nerve

A St Vincent de Paul spokesperson has suggested the Liberal Party on the NSW Central Coast is "feeling sensitive about the question of poverty not being raised during the election", following its action to suppress distribution of material related to the Vinnies-led "Vote 1 No More Poverty" campaign.

The Australian reports today that the Society was forced to withdraw tens of thousands of anti-poverty leaflets from the marginal seat of Dobell after the NSW Liberal Party threatened action in the electoral commission.

St Vincent de Paul, in union with a number of other Catholic, Uniting Church and Anglican charities, letterboxed voters in the NSW central coast seat as part of the campaign.

The brochures did not advocate a vote for a political party but urged voters to write or call their politicians or political candidates and ask: "Do you care about poverty in Australia and what will you do to address it?"

Voters were reminded that "half a million Australians wait four years to see a dentist" and that "half the population owns only 7% of the wealth".

The other organisations are the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Catholic Health Australia, Catholic Welfare Australia, the NSW Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes, Jesuit Social Services, UnitingCare and Anglicare.

They decided to target voters via letterboxes in Liberal-held Dobell, rather than convene anti-poverty forums, to avoid heavy politicisation in a tight electoral contest.

The leaflets displayed the charities' names prominently but did not contain the name and contact number of the individual authorising the material, and were technically in breach of the electoral act.

NSW Liberal Party director Scott Morrison demanded in writing that they "immediately cease circulating the offending material".

"I think it's appalling," said St Vincent de Paul spokesman Terry McCarthy. "It indicated to me they (the Liberal Party) were feeling sensitive about the question of poverty not being raised during the election."

St Vincent de Paul reprinted thousands of brochures at its own expense carrying Mr McCarthy's authorisation.

"They came up against a couple of stubborn Irishmen who weren't going to be pushed around," Mr McCarthy said.

Liberal threat on Vinnies leaflets (The Australian 8/10/04)

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8 Oct 2004