April 15, 2019 18:39:37
Independent MP Kerryn Phelps and her political rival Dave Sharma have asked the Australian Federal Police to re-open an investigation into a blast of “bigoted, racist” and anti-Semitic emails they both say are targeting them ahead of the federal election.
The latest batch of emails was sent out yesterday from at least 12 different email addresses and names, and falsely linked Dr Phelps to vaccination rates in Jewish communities.
The email’s subject line says “we intend to cancel the booking due to measles outbreak”.
It is riddled with anti-Semitic messages, and grammatical and spelling errors, and uses symbols in place of some letters.
It encourages voters, in broken English, not to vote for Dr Phelps, “local white Aussie”, “Musllims” (sic), Italian, Jewish or Chinese candidates.
The email then instructs recipients to vote for Liberal candidate Dave Sharma or other “Indian heritage” candidates.
Both candidates have denounced the emails and the ABC does not suggest Mr Sharma or anyone involved with his campaign is behind any of them.
There have been at least six messages emailed to voters across the country since October that use similar language.
The first email appeared during the Wentworth by-election last year and falsely claimed Dr Phelps was withdrawing from the election because she had been diagnosed with HIV.
It was reported to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) at the time, which said it “found insufficient evidence to pursue an investigation”.
‘Take this seriously’: Phelps
This afternoon, Dr Phelp’s campaign team reported the latest email to the AFP and asked them to re-open their investigation.
“They (AFP) do need to step up their action on this one, particularly given the content of this current batch of emails,” Dr Phelps said.
“I am hoping they will take this more seriously than they did the last one.”
She said the language of the emails was troubling.
“This is the sort of language that sends a chill through vulnerable communities like the Jewish community or the gay community.”
Far-right extremists behind message: Sharma
In a statement to the ABC, Mr Sharma said he, too, had referred the matter to the AFP.
“These bigoted, racist and divisive emails have no place in our democracy,” Mr Sharma said.
Mr Sharma’s campaign team last week said they believed one of the earlier emails was the work of white supremacists.
“It’s got all the signatures of a far-right extremist group,” Mr Sharma told the Daily Telegraph on Saturday.
“It’s just despicable dog whistling and outright slander, which is also directed at me.”
The AFP told the ABC it had been in contact with Dr Phelps’ electorate office and was in the process of obtaining further information.
“This matter will be assessed and it would not be appropriate to comment further,” the statement said.
NSW Police is also investigating a complaint made in March about similar misleading emails.
Australian domains ‘spoofed’
The ABC reached out to one business owner whose domain appeared to be linked to the email sender. He said to his knowledge, there was no mail record associated with the domain.
He suggested the email address had been “spoofed” — where the sender forges an address to mislead the recipient and mask his or her own true identity.
“It’s spoofing one way or another,” the domain owner said.
“It’s quite easy for that to be done.”
The source of the emails has still not been identified but they were sent from multiple email addresses, each signed off with a different first and last name.
They also used obscure domains to mask the sender’s identity.
Email addresses can easily be spoofed, according to cybersecurity expert Troy Hunt.
He said people often failed to verify the legitimacy of an email address if the sender’s name appeared trustworthy at first glance, making it easier to fall for disinformation or phishing emails.
“Often these campaigns are playing on the fears people hold,” he said.
“The amount of disinformation and the unwillingness of people to verify … means people need to make a value decision based on the content.”
Wentworth has long been a safe conservative seat, but was taken by independent Dr Phelps in October, and she holds it on a 1 per cent margin
The hidden campaign: How are you being targeted this election?
This federal election, the ABC is digging into how political messages are being crafted to influence your votes.
We’re collecting texts, emails, robocalls, social media posts, memes, pamphlets, billboards, letters or even posters and graffiti you have spotted in your neighbourhood.
Please submit any material you’ve spotted in the form below.
Please note your information will be handled in accordance with this privacy statement.
April 15, 2019 18:27:50