Greens Bennelong by-election candidate, Justin Alick, has called on Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi to reject violence after tensions spilled over during pre-poll campaigning in Epping.
Mr Bernardi dismissed the incident – involving one of his party’s volunteers and another from the Greens – as a “stunt” and said had been told one of his “elderly” supporters had been “physically intimidated” and at one point, jostled.
He said the Greens volunteer “took a dive” and “was said to be quite distressed.”
“It was immediately reported to the electoral commission. It was confirmed by (the) Liberals. This is unfortunately the sort of extreme tactics taken,” Mr Bernardi said.
But Mr Alick rejected the South Australian senator’s version of events and that it was the Greens volunteer that was pushed over by a Conservatives volunteer.
“Footage of this incident has been circulated by the media and on social media,” he told The Weekly Times.
“Fortunately, our volunteer wasn’t seriously hurt and we are respect his privacy and wish that he not to be placed in the national spotlight because of this incident.
“There is no place for violence in Australian democracy, and peace and non-violence is one of the Greens four founding principles.”
Mr Alick called on Mr Bernardi to also publicly reject violence – or the threat of violence – at polling booths.
“This is an important election, but the safety of the voting public, and any volunteers, is far more important,” he said.
Amid claim and counter-claim over who cast the first stone in last week’s non-life-threatening incident, two key facts have emerged.
An elderly Greens volunteer ended up on his back on a concrete footpath and an Australian Conservatives volunteer vented his frustration in an anti-Greens tirade immediately after the incident.
“The Greens are destructive and a fascist organisation,” the AC volunteer shouted towards a person filming with his mobile phone.
“Don’t vote for him (Mr Alick) please. This guy physically abused me this morning. This guy put his elbow on me. He pushed me against the wall – I’ve got witnesses.”
With limited pedestrian real estate adjacent Beecroft Road near the entrance to Epping’s polling booth for early by-election voters, tempers among the large contingent of volunteers packed into the area were destined to fray.
“There’s lots of volunteers down at pre-poll,” Mr Alick said.
“But if you’re at a crowded pub and someone bumps into you, you can respond calmly or you can resort to violence.
“It’s unfortunate that in this instance, the Bernardi supporter chose the latter.”
Mr Alick said one high-profile metropolitan newspaper columnist and Bernardi supporter had even taken to social media to claim a 91-year-old Liberal Party volunteer had been pushed over by a Greens volunteer in the same incident.
“This is false. It’s my understanding the Liberal volunteer was suffering heat exhaustion and collapsed in a separate incident,” he said.