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Labor refers email claims to Ombudsman

Politics

Labor says it will refer to the State Ombudsman claims a hoax email address set up to apply for job opportunities was instead sent Liberal Party propaganda – but the Government has questioned the legitimacy of the claim.

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The Opposition says an email address set up by the Labor Party to receive state government alerts began to receive Liberal Party material.

It followed an ABC report this week airing about 100 examples of state government links redirecting users through “stateliberalleader.nationbuilder.com” – a domain operated by the SA Liberal Party, with links found on media releases and across parts of the SA COVID–19 website, as well as on other state government department-run sites.

The Government yesterday discontinued the use of NationBuilder for emailing its media releases, but a statement from Premier Steven Marshall said: “The Marshall Liberal Government has not been using state government websites to collect or track data for the Liberal Party.”

“No data is being collected or retained when clicking on the links referred to in media reports.”

But Labor has questioned this, revealing it set up the fake email – albeit using a real person with verifiable details – to test the system several weeks ago.

“This email address has not been used for any other purpose aside from signing up for State Government alerts,” Labor’s Tom Koutsantonis said.

“Yet suddenly, this email address is being inundated with Liberal Party political material from Steven Marshall’s NationBuilder website.”

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Labor has provided media with screenshots of the email, with the recipient’s address redacted – it says to ensure the person’s anonymity.

The Government has seized on this to question the legitimacy of the Opposition’s claims.

“Why is Tom Koutsantonis refusing to disclose the email address to verify his claims that the user did not sign up to the distribution lists through other means?” a spokesperson said.

“Launching a baseless campaign to undermine the trust in our public health institutions during a global pandemic, when there is nothing more important than ensuring the public can get accurate information form verified sources, would be a disgraceful act.”

InDaily has been shown a copy of the original email address, but has agreed not to publish it.

Koutsantonis today said the Opposition would send the emails to the Ombudsman for investigation.

“That email was established by a real person – we made sure they were identifiable on the [electoral] roll,” he told reporters.

“It did one thing and one thing only -register for job alerts [and] all of a sudden this email account started receiving emails from stevenmarshall.com.au – how the hell did [it] get into the hands of the Liberal Party if the only place that email had been used anywhere was on a state government website?

“There needs to an independent inquiry here – hundreds of thousands of people use state government websites every week…

“How this information is getting to the Liberal Party, quite frankly, is shocking and stunning.”

He also questioned the use of a public letter written by Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier that Labor says users are redirected from government health websites to read on a Liberal Party-hosted site.

“This stinks to high hell,” he said.

“We want an independent inquiry [and] we’ll cooperate with any inquiry the Ombudsman makes.”

Ombudsman Wayne Lines told InDaily he would reserve his comment on Labor’s referral “until I’ve seen it”.

“I can’t state a position on it at this point [but] I look forward to receiving it with interest,” he said.

InDaily has sought comment from the Government.

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