Liberal Party sends robo-texts to voters after suspected asylum-seeker boat intercepted

Catie McLeodNCA NewsWire
The Liberal Party sent a mass of robo-texts to voters on Saturday afternoon. Supplied
Camera IconThe Liberal Party sent a mass of robo-texts to voters on Saturday afternoon. Supplied Credit: Supplied

The Liberals have sent a mass of robo-texts to voters after seizing on Scott Morrison’s announcement an asylum seeker vessel had been intercepted apparently en route to Australia.

A spokesman for the Liberal Party confirmed it sent text messages to an undisclosed amount of mobile phone numbers on Saturday afternoon advising people to vote Liberal to “keep our borders secure”.

The message read: “BREAKING – Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders secure by voting Liberal today. http://voteliberal.org.au/”.

Screenshots of the messages have been shared widely on social media and they have been received by voters in tightly-contested seats including Gilmore, Corangamite and Bennelong.

The Australian Electoral Commission said it was aware the texts had been sent out but these types of messages were not prohibited by the electoral act, with political parties exempt from privacy and spam laws.

The Liberal Party confirmed it sent the messages out to an undisclosed number of mobile phone numbers on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Supplied
Camera IconThe Liberal Party confirmed it sent the messages out to an undisclosed number of mobile phone numbers on Saturday afternoon. Supplied Credit: Supplied

Refugee advocate and former Socceroo Craig Foster said the messages were “absolutely disgusting”.

“The use of vulnerable people, minority communities to stoke fear, division, demonisation for political gain,” he wrote on Twitter.

“My deepest apologies & solidarity with our beautiful Australian-Sri Lankan community for being used in this way. We must be better than this.”

Not long before the messages were sent, the Prime Minister used his final media conference of the campaign to announce a boat had been intercepted on Saturday morning after making its way from Sri Lanka.

It is understood about 15 people were on board the vessel that was stopped by Australian authorities off the west coast of Christmas Island after almost making it to the mainland.

Those people were on Saturday afternoon on board an Operation Sovereign Borders vessel having their credentials verified.

Mr Morrison claimed he wanted to share the information with Australians in the spirit of “full transparency”.

“I’ve been here to stop this boat, but in order for me to be there to stop those that may come from here, you need to vote Liberal and Nationals today,“ he said.

“In the interests of full transparency, in the middle of an election campaign, the Labor Party was advised of this and a statement has been issued by the border protection authorities.”

Mr Morrison had previously declared there would be no public discussion of “on water matters”, when he was immigration minister and Australia began turning back asylum seeker vessels at sea in November 2013.

Greens leader Adam Bandt questioned the “unbelievable” timing of the day’s events.

“Anyone who remembers the Tampa crisis knows the Liberals will stoop to any depths to win votes,” he wrote on Twitter.

“This looks like a cynical and disgusting stunt, and one final reason people should vote Scott Morrison out today.”

The Coalition has sought to revive the debate about borders in the lead-up to the election, claiming a Labor government would be soft on immigration and entice people smugglers to resume making voyages to Australia.

Originally published as Liberal Party sends robo-texts to voters after suspected asylum-seeker boat intercepted

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