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AHA NSW referred to electoral commission over “grubby political tactic”

The accom industry’s most powerful lobby group has been accused by the NSW Greens of conducting biased political phone polls.

The accusation follows complaints from voters in marginal seats about phone polling conducted by the NSW branch of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) , which allegedly attempted to persuade the individuals against voting Green.

The push-polling tactics reportedly involved AHA NSW representatives reading out newspaper articles and making negative statements about the party to those expressing a penchant for the Greens, before asking questions about how the respondent felt on hearing the information.  

The organisation, a key financial supporter of the Coalition, has been referred to the NSW Electoral Commission by Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker.

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“This is campaigning masquerading as a poll,” said Mr Parker. “The questions being asked of local residents are designed to influence voters to not support the Greens.”

The Sydney Morning Herald cites two residents who thought they were taking part in a standard political survey when called by AHA representatives. Both said the questioner would not reveal which organisation they represented until the end of the call.

Lesley McFadzean said that after disclosing her intention to vote Green, the market researcher “began reading out long quotes from the newspaper and then I had to respond about whether it would affect me voting Greens”.

She added: “Each of the questions implied, in total, that the Greens were a sexist, racist and extreme left-wing party.”

The AHA is a vociferous opponent of the Greens’ anti-gambling stance, which could gain greater traction in the event of a hung NSW parliament.

Commonwealth donations data released just last month shows that during the March 2017 Tasmanian election, which Labor fought on a strong anti-gambling ticket, the AHA donated $57,000 to the Liberal Party. 

The data also shows hotels associations from around the country were major contributors to Coalition coffers in 2017-18, giving a combined total of more than $600,000 to the party.

“This is a grubby political tactic from a lobby desperate to protect its precious cash cow – the poker machine,” Mr Parker said.

The AHA NSW confirmed in a statement: “The AHA NSW conducts in-house research from time-to-time for internal purposes.”

Under NSW electoral law, it is an offence for an unregistered third-party campaigner to pay for electoral expenditure incurred between October 1, 2018 and election day next Saturday, March 23.

According to The Herald, the AHA was not registered as a third-party campaigner when the polling was conducted, but joined the register on March 8, three days after the Greens lodged their complaint.

The NSW Electoral Commission says it is “not unlawful for a third-party campaigner to make payment for electoral expenditure after registration, even if that expenditure was incurred prior to registration”.

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Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: [email protected]

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