George Christensen referred to AEC over '$12,000 offer'

FEDERAL Dawson MP George Christensen has been referred to the Australian Electoral Commission for seeking to give Libby Edge of Eco Barge Turtle Sanctuary a $12,000 "personal contribution" if re-elected.

In a letter to the Australian Electoral Commission, GetUp Ltd director of legal and governance Isabelle Reinecke requested the AEC investigate the "possible breach of important anti-bribery provisions under Commonwealth electoral law".

GetUp says under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 anti-bribery provisions, a person shall not promise or offer property with the intention of influencing any person's vote, or their support or opposition of a candidate or party.

If found guilty of the offence, Mr Christensen could face $5000 in fines or two years imprisonment.

In a Facebook post, the Dawson MP praised the work of EcoBarge Clean Seas and the Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre.

 

LISTEN: George Christensen talks about his referral to the AEC following a bribery allegation.

 

"(They do) such a great job cleaning up the marine environment in the Whitsundays and nursing injured turtles back to health," Mr Christensen said in his post on May 31.

"That's why last night I was happy to announce a $12,000 personal contribution in 2016/17 to Libby's operations if I'm re-elected as the Member for Dawson.

"Along with that I was able to present a $500 cheque courtesy of the Rotary Club of Airlie Beach to Libby for her efforts."

National Director Paul Oosting said Mr Christensen's statement raised the question of whether Mr Christensen was seeking to use cash handouts to get people to vote for him.

"He's got serious questions to answer," Mr Oosting said.

"We have referred the matter to the AEC requesting investigation into whether this is a bribery offence that falls foul of section 326 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, or whether it is just a ham-fisted and dumb attempt to gain votes.

"There are so many things he could be doing in his electorate that do not involve personally paying people money on the condition of re-election."

But Eco Barge Clean Sea's Libby Edge was shocked by the allegation that she had been offered a bribe.

"Eco Barge needs support," Ms Edge said.

"I've known George since he was re-elected. This is what every politician does before an election.

"I find this very disheartening. It doesn't mean it's going to sway my vote in any way."

Ms Edge said she was apolitical and was simply about "helping sick turtles and cleaning beaches".

She thanked Mr Christensen for offering his support and said she would be grateful for support from anyone who offered it.

Although Mr Christensen said he was wasn't nervous about the referral, he called it absolute "stupidity".

"It's quite ridiculous and I hope that GetUp are happy with themselves because... I am having to phone up the Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre and tell them, to avoid any confusion with electoral laws, that I will not be donating to them now," he said.

"But after the second of July depending on what happens, it could be a different phone call to them.

"I don't know who I was bribing because the donation was to the turtle rescue centre- and turtles don't get to vote."

He said he hadn't "trumpeted the donation from the rooftops", the uproar had been sparked solely be a Facebook post.

He said he had never been referred to the AEC before and hoped the allegation would simply be dismissed.

"It's a terrible day in Australia where saying to someone 'I'll give you a donation if I have the income to do it' turns into a criminal offence," he said.

The AEC confirmed they had received the letter from GetUp, which it said it would review. It had no further comment at this stage.

Despite its claims of political autonomy GetUp has frequently drawn criticism from the conservative side of politics over its left leaning biases. 


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