/Cheque mate: Nationals Katrina Hodgkinson called out over netball funding stunt

Cheque mate: Nationals Katrina Hodgkinson called out over netball funding stunt

Updated

May 11, 2019 09:37:21

Nationals candidate Katrina Hodgkinson has been accused of “misleading opportunism” after she was photographed handing over a novelty cheque for Commonwealth funds to members of a regional netball association.

Key points:

  • The Nationals candidate for Gilmore, Katrina Hodgkinson, appears in a photo handing over Commonwealth funds using a novelty cheque
  • Independent candidate Grant Schultz criticises the stunt, calling it “misleading opportunism at its worst”
  • The incident is similar to the case earlier this year when Mayo candidate Georgina Downer staged a similar novelty cheque handover

The photograph, which was taken on Wednesday, was posted on the Eurobodalla Netball Association’s Facebook page on Thursday and shows Ms Hodgkinson holding a large cheque-like, hand-drawn sign for the sum of $475,000.

The words on the sign read:

The Commonwealth Government is proudly presenting

To: Eurobodalla Netball Association

The sum of: Four hundred and seventy five thousand dollars

$475,000

The photos have since been removed from the Facebook post.

Ms Hodgkinson is the Nationals candidate in the marginal seat of Gilmore on the New South Wales south coast, where she is running against six other candidates including the Liberal Party’s Warren Mundine and independent Grant Schultz.

The sitting member, the Liberals’ Ann Sudmalis, announced in September that she would not recontest the seat, blaming “branch-stacking, undermining and leaks” for her decision.

Mr Schultz was originally endorsed as the Liberal candidate but quit the party to stand as an independent after Mr Mundine was chosen as a “captain’s pick” by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Schultz described the photo opportunity as “misleading opportunism at its worst”.

“She is not even elected and is already misleading the electorate,” he told ABC News.

The Liberal candidate for the South Australia seat of Mayo, Georgina Downer, was embroiled in a similar controversy earlier this year when she was photographed presenting a novelty cheque for Commonwealth funds to a local bowls club.

The Labor Party referred the matter to the auditor-general, accusing Ms Downer of “inappropriate” conduct in presenting the cheque as she was not the sitting member. But no subsequent action was taken.

Ms Hodgkinson defended this week’s photo opportunity and denied the cheque-like sign was a cheque.

“It’s not a cheque, I’m very conscious of the Georgina Downer stuff,” Ms Hodgkinson told ABC News.

“It’s a sign. Nothing more than that. It’s got no signature. My name does not appear on it. It’s got no BSB number or ACN number.”

But it was pointed out that Ms Hodgkinson’s signature did appear on one of the photos of the cheque-like sign after a short greeting: “Happy to help out! Best wishes, Katrina Hodgkinson XX”.

“That’s just a scribble on a sign,” Ms Hodgkinson said. “I was happy to help. So it in no way implies that it’s a cheque. In no way.”

The original funding, which will be used to upgrade local netball facilities, was announced on April 11 at an event attended by Ms Hodgkinson and fellow National Senator Bridget McKenzie, the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation.

“They just wanted to do [another] presentation with the large cheque thing with all the girls round,” said Kerri Mars, vice president of the Eurobodalla Netball Association, explaining how Wednesday’s photo opportunity came about.

ANU professor Andrew Hughes, an expert on political marketing, said the stunt is unlikely to have breached laws or Australian Electoral Commission rules.

“But yes, it does break convention on the local member awarding the money,” he said.

Ms Hodgkinson was a NSW state MP between 1999 and 2017. After the Coalition was returned to power in 2011 she held the ministries of small business and primary industries.

Photos posted on Ms Hodgkinson Facebook page indicate she is a big fan of the novelty cheque presentation. Some 20 photos feature her handing over NSW government cheques, which as a minister or the sitting member she was entitled to do.

The photo opportunity with the Eurobodalla Netball Association is yet to join the collection on Ms Hodgkinson’s Facebook page.

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Topics:

elections,

federal-elections,

government-and-politics,

political-parties,

nationals,

australia,

gilmore-2720

First posted

May 11, 2019 03:28:04