First ‘sign’ of trouble as election vandalism begins
HITLER moustaches and missing signs are just some of the undemocratic behaviours reported since the start of the 2020 local election campaign, leading candidates contesting Southern Downs Regional Council positions to voice their frustrations.
Candidate Andrew Gale was extremely disappointed to hear from social media that his signs on the corner of Bracker Rd had been taken down by council on Friday.
Mr Gale had previously placed signs there in the 2017 state election and 2019 federal election following advice from a SDRC planning and compliance officer, so when this year's local election rolled around, Mr Gale thought it would be the perfect position in South Warwick to advertise his campaign.
He even checked the election fact sheet prior to placing them, which was why he failed to understand why council had removed them.
"Look I'm campaigning for a position in council so it's a very bad look to break council by-laws," he said.
"I pay a lot of attention to what the regulations are, and armed with that information, I put the signs up."
According to Mr Gale, when he a approached a council manager with the email saying it was within his legal rights to place signage there, the manager apologised and told him they would stick the signs back up by the end of the day.
But when that didn't occur, Mr Gale was forced to head into the SDRC Warwick office to retrieve signs himself.
"Its embarrassing for me, it looks like a walk of shame," he said.
With Mr Gale's signage located beside that of three other sitting councillors, he said he wouldn't rule out preferential treatment but sincerely hoped that wasn't the case.
"I really hope not but it is definitely a possibility," he said.
"I have encountered these sorts of issues previously.
"I would be extremely disappointed if the matter was investigated differently, or I was being treated differently, because a sitting councillor made the complaint, that would be abhorrent."
While mayor Tracy Dobie couldn't comment on the individual circumstances at play in Mr Gale's case, she herself had been the target of hostile vandalism and said it was disheartening to see.
"I think it's disappointing but not unexpected," Cr Dobie said.
"I guess when your signs are taken it's a bit more disappointing than when they're vandalised, because that's actually interfering with your democratic right," she said.
"Shouldn't every candidate and resident have a right to display their signage?"
Cr Dobie said she hadn't seen a disproportionate surge in vandalism this campaign season, and said it was pointless to get personally offended by such occurrences.
"Why get upset about it?" she said.
"You don't know who's undertaking the damage, or if it's someone who's just doing it because the opportunity was there."
Mr Gale viewed the damage similarly, but did ask vandals to think twice about the financial outlay of such destruction.
"It was the same story last election," he said.
"I try and view it with the lens fact someone has gone out of their way to communicate with me.
"But it can be disappointing because those things do cost me money."