Independent candidate for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps says she has reported the fake email circulated claiming she had quit the campaign because she has HIV to Australia’s election regulators.
Phelps says she has received legal advice and has lodged a complaint with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the ABC reported.
The email was sent from a fake address, and also urged recipients to divert their vote to Liberal Party candidate Dave Sharma.
While it was first reported that Sharma’s campaign did not wish to comment on the email, he has since condemned it, and today called for it to be investigated by the Australian Federal Police.
“It’s clear it didn’t come from us and didn’t come from our campaign. We had nothing to do with it,” he said.
Phelps said the email was “shocking and disturbing” and labelled it “homophobic”.
I have discussed the email with @DaveSharma and @Timpmurray today and we have all unanimously condemned it for its intent and content. I have briefed a lawyer who has lodged a complaint with the AEC and who is also intending to report it to appropriate authorities#WentworthVotes
— Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (@drkerrynphelps) October 18, 2018
“Just when you think we’ve come so far in destigmatising HIV, something like this comes along and shows how much more work we still have to do,” she told ABC News Breakfast this morning.
Co-founder of The Institute of Many Nic Holas slammed the email on Twitter, calling it “an indication that HIV stigma is alive and well” and “absolutely deplorable.”
“Even if [Phelps] was living with HIV, which she’s not, she’d still make a worthy candidate.
“People Living with HIV deserve better than this. The only thing killing us is ignorance.”
Earlier this week, anti-LGBTI flyers were attacking Safe Schools were found in Wentworth, despite the program no longer running in New South Wales.
The flyers were also riddled with transphobic language and alleging that Safe Schools is designed to indoctrinate kids into transitioning.
Phelps, who was a prominent marriage equality campaigner, has been tipped to take the seat from the Liberal Party for the first time in the electorate’s history at the by-election on Saturday.
Under the law, communications likely to affect voting require authorisation from candidates, MPs, registered political parties and associated groups.
Breaching this part of the Electoral Act could attract fines of up to $25,200.