Country Labor candidate for Dubbo Stephen Lawrence has questioned the ethics behind Independent candidate Mathew Dickerson’s business advertising, claiming it is a way around strict electoral expenditure caps.
Mr Dickerson’s Dubbo based mobile phone business Axxis has taken out advertising on billboards, buses and newspapers across the electorate including in the Daily Liberal. The advertisements feature the candidate’s face and the words, ‘Trust Mathew Dickerson’.
Mr Lawrence has described them as “crass and cynical” and “a deluge of advertising obviously designed to influence the state election”.
“I have serious ethical issues with Mr Dickerson’s business advertising, I believe it is business advertising for political purposes,” he said.
But Mr Dickerson rejected any claims of impropriety.
“I’ve been advertising in the Liberal for decades. I own a business called Axxis and to continue to retain and attract customers and keep employing local people, we advertise this business and we continually use a variety of different advertising methods to ensure we have a viable business,” he said.
“I would describe this as the same situation for any business in a highly competitive industry.”
“The Electoral Commission NSW has a range of strict guidelines concerning electoral advertising and expenditure and donations and declarations. I see nothing that I have done or intend to do that will contravene those rules and if anyone believes that I am in breach of those rules there is a simple process to lodge a complaint with the Electoral Commission and they will make a determination. I am not aware of any complaint having been lodged.”
However, the Country Labor candidate said there are legal caps on electoral expenditure for “an array of good reasons”.
“No one should be able to buy an election and all electoral expenditure should be subject to stringent accountability requirements. The problem with disguised electoral spending is it avoids that accountability and potentially the cap on spending,” Mr Lawrence said.
“The volume, design, colour and content of the billboards, buses, front page ads and so on all suggest a political motive. I for one am not going to sit by quietly while it happens. Business and politics are being mixed in a way they shouldn't be. Mathew probably thinks it's clever, which is debatable. Either way, this crass and cynical approach is not our system.”
“In light of the cap on electoral spending and the accountability requirements on electoral expenditure, I question whether these advertisements are both legal and ethical.”