The Tasmanian Liberal party has publicly apologised for any “hurt or offence” caused by its campaign material during last year’s Pembroke by-election, after coming under fire for an “ageist” campaign.
The Liberals took aim at 71-year-old Clarence Mayor Doug Chipman, who was contesting the November poll for the Upper House seat as an independent, mocking him in a press release for being retired and living in a lifestyle village.
In another dig at Mr Chipman’s age, Facebook and Twitter posts from the Liberal party and its state director Sam McQuestin included a concocted image of the Legislative Council steps, with golf clubs, a fishing rod, and a fictional 1946 album cover added in.
Mr Chipman accused the party of age-based discrimination and the Council on the Ageing described the Liberals’ behaviour as “appalling and atrocious”.
On Easter Sunday, the Liberals apologised in a small print advertisement in the classifieds section of the Mercury newspaper.
“The Liberal Party of Australia (Tasmanian Division) apologises for any hurt or offence caused to any person arising from the material used before the Pembroke by-election,” the advertisement reads.
The ad was authorised by Mr McQuestin.
The Liberals would not say if the public apology was the result of a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
The Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, as well as offensive, humiliating, intimidating, insulting or ridiculing conduct on the basis of age”.
Commissioner Sarah Bolt said last year she was aware of the case, but was unable to comment on whether she was investigating a complaint, due to privacy restrictions.
Mr Chipman, who is a former state president of the Liberal party, welcomed the apology.
“It’s certainly been overdue,” Mr Chipman said.
“I know a lot of people in the community were really upset at the ageism campaign and there were members of the [Liberal] party I include in that.”
“I am very happy to accept the apology in the spirit that it’s been offered.”
The Council on the Ageing’s Sue Leitch said she was pleased the Liberals had apologised for the material.
“It was clearly ageist and discriminatory just on the basis of a person’s age,” Ms Leitch said.
“It’s something we need to stand up to and say it’s not appropriate, because someone shouldn’t be considered not worthy of a position just because of their age.”
Ms Leitch said COTA fielded complaints from members of the public about the issue, and she would have liked the apology to have been more conspicuous than a 50 millimetre by 40 millimetre advertisement on page 64 of the Easter Sunday paper.
“I eventually found it, it was rather small. I would say something more prominent would have been appropriate,” she said.
The tactics in the lead up to the by-election unimpressed many members of the Liberals, with state president Geoff Page going public with a plea for unity.
Mr Chipman and the Liberals were also in a tit-for-tat spat over electoral breaches during the campaign for Pembroke.
The Upper House seat was won by Labor’s Jo Siejka.