Unions mining members’ data to oust Liberals
Tasmania’s peak union body is using members’ personal data to assist electioneering as part of an anti-Liberal state election campaign that also includes orchestrated “stunts” and media manipulation.
Unions Tasmania’s “updated campaign plan” and an email from secretary Jessica Munday, sent to unions on Tuesday, have been leaked to The Weekend Australian. They show unions have supplied membership data to guide electioneering phone calls.
In the email, Ms Munday refers to “phone banks” and “callouts” to members starting this week. “Thank you to those unions who have provided their member data and have agreed to call their members to ask them to leave the Liberals off their ballot paper on March 3,” Ms Munday says.
A detailed election strategy, complete with a grid showing daily activities, suggests the calls started on Wednesday and are being made to union members after they finish work, between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.
Some of the call-out sessions are organised by UT and others by the Maritime Union of Australia, while notes suggest people may be being targeted on the basis of them being judged “persuadable”.
Tasmania’s Personal Information Protection Act 2004 states groups holding such data “must not use or disclose personal information about an individual for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was collected”. There are exemptions, including where people have consented for their personal information to be used for other purposes. It is unclear whether union members gave such consent.
Ms Munday’s email says unions that have not provided their member data can still take part. “If you haven’t provided your member data but want to make calls, you are welcome to come to the UT phone banks or direct any keen volunteers to us,” she says.
Yesterday, Ms Munday defended the strategy.
“We are committed to campaigning legally, using methods employed by both sector and industry organisations and political parties, mainstream and independent,” she said. “We do this by talking directly to the public — in person, on the phone and through social media — all of which are usual methods of communication in a campaign.”
The campaign also involves seven unions providing people to doorknock and letterbox against the incumbent Liberals.
It specifies “twice daily (before noon, before 5pm)” Facebook posts, and daily Twitter updates using specified hashtags.
Activist groups are included in actions in city centres and at local markets, with “stunts” scheduled at least four times a week.
“Stunts are only indicative and are subject to finalised messaging,” the plan states, while listing one at a hospital on February 22, and an unspecified stunt by the Electrical Trades Union on February 28.
Liberal campaign spokesman Michael Ferguson said the strategy “should put to bed once and for all (union) claims to somehow be nonpartisan players”.