Premier Will Hodgman Asked to Dump Candidate over ‘Insensitive’ Facebook Post

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman is being asked to disendorse a candidate who has offended Aboriginal groups by sharing “insensitive” material online.

Felix Ellis, a West Coast plumber running as a Liberal candidate for Braddon in the upcoming state election, said the August 2017 post was a text message from a colleague.

The text showed an image of a brick with the words: “Have a look at this do you think it’s an ancient Aboriginal hammer”.

It was a response to an earlier post of Mr Ellis’s in which he asked his Facebook friends if a stone item he had found on a construction job might be an Aboriginal relic.

“Archaeologist friends … found this on an excavation in Rosebery,” his post read.

Facebook post by Braddon Liberal candidate Felix Ellis

“The edges are still sharp and seems to look like a Aboriginal cutting tool.”

He then asked for advice on where to take the item.

When his friend replied with the brick photo, Mr Ellis posted it, saying, “I don’t think the work lads are buying my latest efforts in archaeology”.

In a statement he said he thought his friend’s post was “light-hearted”.

“The subsequent post was a text message from a colleague which I took to be a light-hearted response to my original post,” he said.

The image was posted several months before he was announced as a Liberal Party candidate in November 2017.

“There was no offence intended in any way, shape or form,” Mr Ellis said.

But Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation CEO Heather Sculthorpe called on Mr Hodgman to have Mr Ellis disendorsed for posting his friend’s reply.

“It is the sort of behaviour that Will Hodgman should get onto straight away and he should ensure that person is disendorsed as a Liberal candidate,” she said.

“If he doesn’t, it will reinforce the public perception that this is a thoroughly racist government.”

The Liberal Tasmanian Government and the TAC had been embroiled in a long-running dispute over the potential reopening of four-wheel-drive tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, which falls within the electorate of Braddon.

Felix Ellis Facebook post

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Council opposed the move, even taking the government to court, arguing four-wheel-driving would damage Aboriginal middens and heritage sites.

When asked if Mr Ellis should be disendorsed, Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff said: “Mr Ellis is a hardworking young Tasmanian who wants to make a very strong contribution to the future of his region, and our region here in the North-West Coast.”

‘Not much thought put into post’

Mr Rockliff would not be drawn on whether Mr Ellis should publicly apologise and said he doubted the matter would weaken the Government’s relationship with Aboriginal communities.

“We’ve developed a strong relationship with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community over the last four years and that will continue,” he said.

Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation CEO Diane Baldock said the text message was ridiculing Aboriginal archaeological artefacts, and that sharing it online was insensitive.

“I guess I feel that it was insensitive, from somebody who was looking at becoming a Liberal candidate, that he felt the need to actually share what was sent to him,” she said.

“He didn’t obviously put much thought into putting in on [Facebook].”

Ms Baldock said the Liberal Government ought to distance itself from the post.