Following Michael West Media’s report on domain squatting by the NSW Nationals in the leadup to the Upper Hunter by-election, the Nationals candidate has directed the party to relinquish the domains, in apparent defiance of Nationals’ leader John Barilaro. Callum Foote reports.
Three days after Michael West Media revealed that the NSW Nationals had registered websites in the names of their byelection opponents, the websites have been taken down.
Nationals’ candidate David Layzell was not aware that head office of the NSW Nationals had registered domain names in the names of a number of his key opponents, including Labor’s Jeff Drayton and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Sue Gilroy.
The Nationals registered the domain names http://jeffdrayton.com.au/, http://jeffdrayton.com/, http://www.suegilroy.com/ and http://www.suegilroy.com.au/, with websites are authorised by Joe Lundy, the NSW state director of the NSW Nationals.
‘Enough is enough’
Layzell was only made aware of the domain squatting when Scone.com.au reporter Taylah Fellow told him of it during an interview with NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro and Jason Chesworth, the manager at a local employer Hunter Bell Dairy Co.
Layzell’s campaign director Jock Sowter told the local media outlet that Layzell wanted to run a clean campaign and never endorsed what Nationals head office did.
Sowter said Layzell was not a part of securing the domain names.
“David said this morning, ‘enough is enough’. He’s given the directive to give the websites back because he doesn’t endorse them. He was very firm about it. My understanding is now the websites are down and that’s that.”
In the interview, Layzell made it clear he was strongly opposed to the tactic.
“I don’t endorse it. I understand it is part of a campaign… This is parties campaigning. But me as a person, no.”
However, Barilaro continued to endorse the domain squatting, saying the opposition was upset “because they were too slow off the mark. We got them this time. We pulled their pants down.”
“We will use everything to our advantage. This is a political party, and we are in a political game.”
Barilaro also told NBN news when asked about the matter that “if you’re not ready to campaign you’re not ready to govern”.