By ERWIN CHLANDA
A Labor Member of the Legislative Assembly, Sandra Nelson (at left), has barred a constituent from her Katherine office for a year by issuing a trespass notice.
The rent for the office is paid by the Legislative Assembly.
The constituent, Bruce Francais (at right), says the action is totally unjustified but Ms Nelson says: “I am not going to argue people’s opinions. His opinions are different to mine. I am not going to argue with him about that.”
We asked her: Is democracy not all about arguing different points of view?
Ms Nelson said she agreed with that and said she is “very accomodating. I listen to everybody but I am not obliged to being yelled at, or insulted.”
What was the nature of the insult?
“He called me stupid and told me I was bullshitting. I am a bullshitter.”
Did Mr Francais say she is stupid or her views are stupid?
“He said I am stupid. Even if he said my views are stupid I don’t have to tolerate to being yelled at by people.”
Ms Nelson says her electoral officer was a witness to the exchange.
Mr Francais says in a written statement: “According to a prominent member of the Labor Party, the Member for Katherine claims that I yelled at her.
“That is untrue. This Labor Party member conceded that the decision was undemocratically made but shrugged it off by saying, that’s the way things are done these days.”
The decision in question was the NT Government’s approval of fracking.
Mr Francais, a frequent writer of letters to the Alice Springs News Online and a retired pharmacist, says he called on Ms Nelson to discuss “what I consider to be the undemocratic way that the Gunner administration made the decision to lift the moratorium on fracking.
“For instance, Sandra was elected to Parliament on an anti-fracking platform in an electorate where there is strong opposition to fracking.
“She is personally opposed to fracking and played a major role in the implementation of the moratorium but was unable to vote when the decision to lift it was made by a mere one third of our Parliamentarians.
“Sandra maintains that it was a democratic process. I suspect that the majority of constituents of the Katherine Electorate, would disagree with their MLA on this point.
“I was accused of bullying and harassment and informed by Sandra that I was not welcome in the office and would have to leave immediately and not return.
“I obeyed Sandra’s instruction and left the office, making a disparaging but non expletive remark on the way out.”
Mr Francais says he is forbidden to enter the electorate office prior to September 4, 2019: “If I do so I may be arrested and prosecuted for the offence of trespassing. This carries a penalty of 20 penalty points, a fine of about $3000.”
Ms Nelson says the assertion by Mr Francais that the fracking decision was not made in a democratic manner was his opinion, and he was entitled to it, telling him: “That’s your opinion, Bruce, and I am not going to argue with you on that.”
When Mr Francais claimed the were many others having an opinion similar to his Ms Nelson says she replied: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I am also not going to argue with them about their opinion.”
Is an electoral office not the place where such opinions are discussed and argued?
Ms Nelson says she is “very accommodating” of other opinions but “I am not obligated to tolerate being yelled at or insulted in any circumstance … If I feel threatened or harassed I don’t have to tolerate that either”.
Mr Francais denies having done any of those things.
Ms Nelson concedes no independent investigation of the events has taken place, but says police do not require one for a trespass notice to be issued. She says Mr Francais can still contact her by phone and email.
UPDATE September 15, 9am
This is matter for the Member for Katherine, I will not be commenting, says the Speaker, Kezia Purick.
She was responding to a requests for comment in which we put to her: “It occurs to us that an electorate offie is quite an important location in a democracy: People go there for many reasons, it’s a resource, its a place for clarification and debate, and the rent is paid by the Parliament, as we understand it.
“The Parliament is the landlord, one could say.
Is it OK by you, as the Speaker, for the Member in question to bar a constituent from such an office for a whole year and for reasons that are very much contested?”
Voter banned from Parliamentarian's office
By ERWIN CHLANDA