Residents in the federal seat of Warringah are complaining about telephone push polling, unwanted copies of the Daily Telegraph arriving on their lawns and election posters being defaced.
The most mysterious event in the Sydney seat, where the former prime minister Tony Abbott is fighting a challenge from the independent Zali Steggall, is the arrival of unsolicited copies of the Telegraph, which began in late March.
Residents in Manly, Queenscliff, Curl Curl and Fairlight said they had begun intermittently receiving copies of the News Corp tabloid newspaper, despite not being subscribers. The Telegraph has run a number of stories that would not have delighted Steggall’s campaign.
They included reporting on alleged ties between Steggall’s campaign and GetUp, and a front-page story about the outrage Steggall’s former husband and his second wife felt about Steggall’s posts on social media.
Northern beaches folk are not big readers of the Tele, many preferring another News Corp publication, the Manly Daily, or the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Greens candidate, Kristyn Glanville, said she had received multiple reports of Telegraphs arriving unsolicited.
The free papers have caused both irritation and mirth. “Useful to have camping if you run out of toilet paper,” wrote one recipient on Facebook. Other suggestions followed.
A spokeswoman for News Corp said a small number of homes had been involved in recent sampling activity in the Manly area, which had now ceased.
“Sampling activity is a standard marketing practice to introduce products to potential new customers,” she said. “All of our sampling activity is based on our market research.”
More troubling are allegations of “push polling”, which are being levelled by both the Liberals and groups supporting Steggall.
One resident, Eilis O’Beirne, posted notes on Facebook of a call she received on 15 April which included in the questions untrue statements about Steggall, such as that she was “connected to the Labor party and is going to support them”, and that she had said so at a community forum.
Steggall has said she will not direct preferences, will sit on the crossbench and, in the event of a hung parliament, would back the party with the best climate change polices, an issue she has made central to her campaign.
The pollster also reportedly told O’Beirne Steggall was “funded by GetUp” –something Steggall has strongly denied.
GetUp runs its own campaigns and does not financially back candidates. Its policy is to rate candidates according to their platform on issues such as climate change and the proposed Adani coalmine.
In last year’s Wentworth byelection it produced a how-to-vote card that offered four alternatives based on the candidates’ views.
The Liberals have also taken issue with robo-polling by the union-owned polling company uComms.
People it surveyed this week asked first about voting intentions. But the poll also included three questions about whether the voter supported medical treatment of refugees in Australia, and whether the voter supported doctors being able to determine whether a refugee would be medically evacuated to Australia.
It also asked about whether Newstart should be increased. Liberal sources said the narrow focus of the poll on particular issues amounted to pushing those issues into voters’ minds.
In the past, uComms has done work for GetUp. It is also sometimes used by welfare and environmental groups to test support for their particular issues.