Marrickville Council supports the global BDS movement, and Mayor Fiona Byrne is standing for the Greens for the state legislature, promising to expand BDS against apartheid Israel there if she gains election. A phony push poll has been discovered aimed at undermining her campaign and BDS.
Residents were asked questions such as “Did you know Fiona Byrne led a boycott against Israel on council recently?”
A council spokeswoman said no such survey had been commissioned and the calls were being investigated. If necessary, they would be referred to the Federal Police.
Cr Byrne said the calls were a clear case of “push polling”. “Push polling is a manipulative dirty trick, an old style political tactic and people are sick of it,” she said. “The Greens support is growing because we campaign positively on issues that matter to people.”
It is the second instance of alleged push polling in a seat held by a Labor minister. The Coalition accused Labor of push polling in John Robertson’s seat, Blacktown, in February after residents were phoned and asked about fake Liberal policies.
Marrickville resident Gavin Smith said he became suspicious when the interviewer repeatedly mispronounced the mayor’s surname and referred to the council as “Marrickville City Council”.
“I immediately said to the girl ‘Are you representing the Labor Party?’ and she said ‘No no it’s Marrickville City Council’,” he said.
Deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt, who holds the seat by a 7.5 per cent margin, denied the calls came from Labor.
“We have no knowledge of these phone calls and are not responsible for them,” she said.
One resident traced the call to a telephone research company called Australian Fieldwork Solutions. The company confirmed it was carrying out a survey in Marrickville but would not disclose who commissioned it or what the questions were.
The Greens candidate for Marrickville is the local mayor Fiona Byrne. Last December, the Greens and Labor-dominated council voted 10-2 to cut links with organisations that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt, the current MP for Marrickville, opposes the boycott?—?as does her husband Anthony Albanese, who represents the area at a federal level.
Byrne said: “This is absolutely and obviously push polling, but misrepresenting itself. I think that misrepresentation is quite insidious. It’s old-style political tactics and I think people are tired of it.”
She said the survey had misled voters by asking whether they would vote for her given she had “instigated” a boycott against Israel.
“I supported a motion that came to council. I as a councillor did not instigate a boycott,” she said.
And from the Australian, it’s reported that zionist groups have attempted a wedge in Marrickville “booking the local town hall for an AFL “peace team” made up of Israeli and Palestinian footballers.”
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies spokesman Peter Wertheim yesterday branded as “total hypocrisy” tonight’s anticipated decision by the Marrickville council to allow the reception for the team, which is visiting for the AFL World Cup in Melbourne in August, to proceed.
“While the proposal to host the AFL peace team is precisely the sort of project we encourage, it is total hypocrisy for a council that has a boycott in place to allow it to occur in their facility,” Mr Wertheim told The Australian.
Fiona Byrne addressed this shonky tactic clearly:
“There is no issue with a local group hiring a hall to host the AFL peace team. The global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign has to do with council activities, not with what local community groups do when they hire a hall.”
The peace team is co-sponsored by the Peres Peace Centre in Jerusalem and the Al-Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue, a Palestinian non-government organisation.
The Aq-Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue is partnered by the Peres Peace Centre, and helps the Israeli hasbara campaign to normalise the occupation and Israeli apartheid. Both organisations are members of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGOs Forum.
Fiona Byrne said two push-polls had been reported to her, including one poll which reportedly claims to be from Marrickville Council. Marrickville Council will follow up with Police to see if a crime has been committed by persons pretending to be from Council.
Crikey records the Liberal candidate’s confirmation of dirty poll calls and reiterates the two poll scenario :
Liberal candidate Rosana Tyler, who opposes Marrickville Council’s boycott, says members of her campaign team had received the call.
“The caller gave their name but not the organisation. They just said they were ringing from a Melbourne-based company. They did say they were ringing on behalf of Marrickville Council. The questions did seem to be manipulative.”
Tyler says the boycott issue is turning “ordinary” voters against the Greens: ”There is consternation in Marrickville that this council has just lost the plot.”
Greens spokesman Mark Riboldi says he believes two “push polls” canvassing the boycott issue have been running in the area. In the first, callers identify themselves as employees of polling firm Australian Fieldwork Solutions. He says this poll is “not illegal, but definitely dirty”. In the second, callers claim to be ringing on behalf of Marrickville Council.
St Peters resident Mel McCabe told Crikey she participated in the fake Marrickville Council survey last Friday evening.
“It’s made me angry,” she said. “I’m not aligned with anyone, but I’m really angry that I gave personal insights about my views to give fodder for someone to throw at Fiona. It didn’t sit well.”
She says she was asked whether she would be more or less likely to vote for Byrne given the mayor’s support for the boycott.
Petersham retiree Gavin Smith, a well-known local environmentalist, told Crikey he received a call last Tuesday purportedly on behalf of Marrickville City Council. He said the caller asked whether councils should be involved in foreign affairs.
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