Labor accused of giving voters’ private details to unions
Australia's election officials are probing whether the private details of Queenslanders were shared illegally by Annastacia Palaszczuk's Labor Party with unions so they could directly influence voters in critical seats.
An investigation by The Courier-Mail has uncovered allegations that the electoral roll information of Queenslanders, which is provided to political parties with strict conditions under federal laws, was amalgamated with union membership lists into a massive data set.
The information, which includes the names, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers of an unknown number of people has allegedly been used during successive election campaigns by the Queensland Council of Unions to target specific voter groups.
The Australian Electoral Commission has begun probing Labor and the QCU's use of the electoral roll and promised to liaise with the Australian Federal Police after receiving information from a concerned whistleblower on October 5, the day before the official Queensland election campaign kicked off.
The whistleblower has claimed the QCU harvested the membership lists from several of its affiliated unions, which includes plumbers, public servants, police, teachers, journalists and electricians.
"Often (this was) via emailing an excel spreadsheet or the smart ones will bring it to Level 5, 16 Peel Street on a thumb drive," they claimed.
It is alleged the information was then provided to Labor, which is based within the same South Brisbane office building, and then amalgamated with electoral roll information of voters which is only provided to political parties.
"The QCU then uses this … data to target people the ALP has identified as One Nation-leaning union members and runs a 'we don't mind if you vote One Nation, just put the LNP last' campaign," the whistleblower claimed.
"Doorknocking, heat maps, cold calling, you name it."
The allegations will draw comparisons with the Cambridge Analytica scandal - where people were profiled based on their social media use - which erupted after US President Donald Trump's election victory in 2016 and forced corporate giant Facebook to improve its privacy standards.
It comes after a political storm erupted this week when two Labor MPs in marginal regional seats were accused of co-ordinating with QCU volunteers as part of its controversial "Put the LNP Last" campaign.
Ms Palaszczuk promised to "Read the Riot Act" to the MPs while insisting Labor was still committed to its long-term policy of putting One Nation last on how-to-vote cards.
Documents sighted from the QCU data set shows the information includes Electoral Commission of Queensland specifics of voters, includes names, dates-of-birth and state and federal electorates as well as additional information from another source.
In a complaint to the AEC's fraud section, the whistleblower alleged similar mega-data sets were produced before the 2020 election.
"Please find attached a list produced by the Queensland Labor Party in 2017 and given to the Queensland Council of Unions to use whatever way they like before the state election," it states.
"Both the QCU and the Queensland Labor Party are engaging in the practise of producing electoral data lists of several thousand union members and giving them to the Queensland Council of Unions for this and the 2017 poll to use as they like."
In response to the complaint, AEC acting director Justin Sowden said misuse of electoral data was a criminal offence.
"We will discuss with the Australian Federal Police whether they consider the matter warrants further investigation," he wrote.
A spokesman for the AEC said the commission does not comment "on matters which may be the subject of further inquiries" while the AFP said it had "not received a referral in relation to this matter".
Labor state secretary Julie-Ann Campbell insisted the party was unaware of any complaint.
"The ALP takes its obligations under the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Queensland Electoral Act very seriously," she said.
However, Ms Campbell did not respond to The Courier-Mail's questions about whether the party had amalgamated electoral roll information with union membership details and supplied the data to the QCU.
A QCU spokesman also did not specifically respond to questions about how it obtained voter details and how it had used the information but insisted it had always operated within the law.
"The QCU is confident it has complied with the requirements of the Electoral Act," the spokesman said.
Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, elected officials, political parties and candidates are supplied copies of the electoral roll that are not publicly available free of charge. However, they face fines of up to $220,000 for disclosing "protected information in relation to a person".
Originally published as Labor accused of giving voters' private details to unions