Referred to the Electoral Commission... MP Kate Washington (left).
Referred to the Electoral Commission... MP Kate Washington (left).

Labor pollie accused of unlawful use of electors’ details

A STATE Labor MP in a battleground seat has been referred to the Electoral Commission after being caught out using the electoral roll to search for the addresses of people leaving critical comments on her Facebook page.

Labor MP for Port Stephens Kate Washington provided screenshots of the searches to the ABC as she pitched a story on "fake" Facebook profiles making political criticism.

Despite redacting the voters' addresses, the screenshots listed the voters' suburbs, postcodes and ages - which the NSW Liberal Party claims is a serious breach of the Electoral Act and restrictions on use of the roll by political parties.

Former NSW ALP boss Jamie Clements was fined in 2017 for unlawfully using the electoral roll after he accessed information for a union boss.

In a letter sent on Friday to NSW Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt, Liberal Party boss Chris Stone complained of a "potentially serious breach of the Electoral Act".

His letter said the screenshots were forwarded again to the Liberal Party by the ABC journalist reporting on Ms Washington's claims that she was being trolled.

"The ABC journalist first contacted our party's communications director Ian Zakon via email and attached screenshots from the Australian Labor Party's electoral roll software, Campaign Central," Mr Stone wrote.

"While some personal details had been redacted, the screenshots from the electoral roll clearly identify two citizens, one of whom lives in the district of Port Stephens and the other from another district in NSW. Providing screenshots of electoral roll data to the ABC journalist would constitute serious breaches of Sections 51, 52 and 55 of the Act."

Facebook screengrab of Labor Port Stephens MP Kate Washington complaining that fake profiles are trolling her.
Facebook screengrab of Labor Port Stephens MP Kate Washington complaining that fake profiles are trolling her.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the allegations were "gravely concerning".

He called on Opposition Leader Michael Daley to suspend Ms Washington's ALP membership until an investigation was completed.

A spokesman for Ms Washington dismissed the allegations saying they were a "desperate try-on from a party trying to avoid scrutiny for its fake Facebook profiles". She said "no one's address details were forwarded to anyone".

The Liberals believe using the roll to search Facebook profiles and forwarding the information even with a redacted address constitutes a breach of the law.

Ms Washington believed she identified four Facebook profiles which were fakes and has complained to the clerk of parliament, blaming the Liberal Party.