The Canberra Liberals have blasted Senator David Pocock over what they describe as an “inappropriate and disappointing” choice to hold a “clearly political” event in a public school hall.
On Sunday, 18 September, Senator Pocock hosted a Community Town Hall event at Lanyon High School. He invited community members to talk to him about the issues that mattered to them.
His decision to do so was criticised by Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson, who accused the Senator of politicising ACT public schools.
He argued the use of banners that displayed ‘Vote 1 David Pocock’ and volunteers wearing his campaign t-shirts showed the event was political.
Mr Hanson questioned who had approved the event and whether Education Minister Yvette Berry had given it the go-ahead.
“I don’t believe schools or other ACT Government facilities should be politicised by Federal or local politicians and would prefer they remain off limits for these sorts of events,” the Deputy Opposition Leader said.
“The real question is, who approved this political event in an ACT public school and did the ACT Education Minister believe it was appropriate?”
The Education Directorate and Senator Pocock have downplayed the significance of the location and election signage. However, Senator Pocock will not use that same signage at similar events in the future.
“This was not a political rally or promotional event but a simple community consultation, held in good faith for Senator Pocock to update the community on what’s been happening in parliament, as well as to answer the community’s questions,” a statement from Senator Pocock’s office read.
It said Senator Pocock was still waiting for new materials, including new signage, and there had been delays of up to four months in securing a signwriter, for example.
“Old signage from the campaign is being used in the interim simply to alert constituents to things like the location of the office and to direct them to events. Notwithstanding the above, Senator Pocock will not be using the flags further,” it read.
A spokesperson for Mr Pocock said Mr Hanson appeared to be “trying to cause trouble”.
The Education Directorate confirmed the hall had been hired under its Community Use of Hall Facilities Policy and the school neither endorsed nor took any active part in the event.
“The Directorate supports the use of ACT public schools as community facilities when the facilities are not in use by the school,” their spokesperson confirmed.
“The event was unrelated to the operation of the school, it was not held during business hours, and there were no school staff or students formally engaged in the event.”
Lanyon High School was paid $380.70 for the three-hour hire, per the recommended community hire rate.