The advertising trailer in a prominent position across the road from the pre-poll station. Picture: Peter StoopA HEATED exchange involving Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp on one side and Liberal booth workers and a retired “swinging voter” on the other has been investigated by the police and the NSW Electoral Commission.
Tempers flared at the Newcastle pre-polling station in Darby Street on Tuesday over the way that Mr Crakanthorp had parked an advertising trailer with his photos on it, hitched to a station wagon, in a prominent position across the road from the pre-poll station.
While Mr Crakanthorp says he had checked with Newcastle City Council compliance officers before leaving the vehicle parked for extended periods of time, his Liberal challenger, Karen Howard, disagrees.
“The council compliance officer told everyone that cars with advertising trailers could only stay parked like that when the driver for the day was in the vicinity,” Ms Howard said.
The disturbance began when one of Ms Howard’s campaign workers tried to photograph Mr Crakanthorp, apparently as he was about to leave in another vehicle, which could show he was “not in the vicinity”.
Mr Crakanthorp said: “Yesterday as I was leaving pre-poll, I was approached by a Liberal volunteer seeking to photograph me.
“Another man got involved, there was an exchange of words and I have reported the matter to the Newcastle returning officer, the police and parliamentary security.”
Ms Howard declined to say what happened, saying she was not there at the time, but the person Mr Crakanthorp referred to, Honeysuckle resident Tim Lees, alleged Mr Crakanthorp had “an aggressive and threatening attitude towards the young volunteer”.
Mr Lees, who describes himself as a 65-year-old swinging voter who moved to Newcastle a few years ago from Sydney’s northern beaches, said he intervened to tell Mr Crakanthorp to calm down.
He said Mr Crakanthorp then “turned his venom” on him, and that at one stage the pair were “nose to nose” in conflict.
“Seems the pressure may be getting to the member for Newcastle,” Mr Lees said.
Mr Crakanthorp disputed Mr Lees’ account and alleged that the voter had been the aggressor.
He said the council’s senior compliance officer had verified there was “no issue with the campaign car being parked where it was”.
“Polling booths can involve some rough and tumble, however it will be the people of Newcastle who decide who will represent them,” Mr Crakanthorp said. “Until then, everyone should act respectfully.”
Newcastle returning officer Ashley Cooper confirmed he had written a report about the incident and sent it to the electoral commission’s Sydney head office.
A commission spokesman confirmed the report had been received but said he was unable to release it or to detail its contents.
Ms Howard said she, too, had contacted police, having received “very third-hand information” about what had happened at the pre-poll station.
Police said said officers investigated a “verbal altercation” on Darby Street but on the information they received they believed no offence had been committed and so no formal action was taken.
Police confirmed the argument began over “the taking of photographs” and said extra patrols were being sent past the pre-poll station.
Extra patrols were also sent past one candidate’s home, as requested by the candidate.