ACT Labor has called for the Liberal Party to disendorse its candidate for Canberra Mina Zaki after police were called to a pre-polling booth at Exhibition Park on Thursday afternoon when tensions boiled over between her and a Labor volunteer.
An Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) spokesperson said the officer in charge at the Quokka building booth called police after Ms Zaki told Labor Senate candidate Katy Gallagher to “put a leash on your dog”.
The ABC reported that Ms Zaki, who has battled claims that she had not renounced her Afghan citizenship in time to be eligible to run, had confronted Ms Gallagher to complain about the volunteer’s tactics.
The ABC said that before she left the pre-polling station Ms Zaki was recorded yelling at Ms Gallagher.
“Will you take some responsibility for once in your life and actually do something Katy,” she said, calling for the volunteer to be disciplined.
A voter in line at the polling station interjected, yelling at Ms Zaki to “grow up and leave Katy alone”.
Ms Gallagher told the ABC that tensions had been running high between the parties all day.
“We don’t usually have candidates screaming at people, especially while voters are present,” she said.
“The AEC saw the need to call the police and it was responded to appropriately.
“I think there’d been an issue simmering away throughout the day about volunteer behaviour.
“Mina was yelling at me about it and obviously that was confronting to the public.”
She said the Labor volunteer involved had not been the instigator.
ALP secretary Matt Byrne has written to Liberal President Steve Pratt, saying Ms Zaki’s behaviour was not appropriate, particularly at a place where people were exercising their democratic right to vote.
It is believed Ms Zaki was not at the booth when police arrived and had later apologised for her outburst.
It is also believed a Liberal volunteer upset at heckling from other parties’ volunteers had called her to the booth for support.
A Liberal Party campaign spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that other parties have sought to denigrate and provoke our volunteers at prepoll over a period of weeks. All we seek is that all volunteers treat each other with respect and courtesy.”
But Mr Byrne tweeted that it was disappointing that the Liberals were trying to smear a Labor volunteer to cover up their poor behaviour, and said in his letter that it was a Liberal volunteer who had been acting inappropriately, and on at least one occasion toward a voter.
He said the volunteer’s actions had made not just Labor but other parties’ volunteers uncomfortable.
Mr Byrne said in the letter that he was confident that Ms Gallagher had managed the situation so as not to escalate it.
“I ask that you as the Liberal Party President and Senator Seselja as the senior Liberal candidate in this election raise these concerns with Ms Zaki. We call on you to disendorse Ms Zaki as the Liberal Candidate for Canberra following the incident,” Mr Byrne wrote.
ACT Policing said officers had responded to a report of a disturbance at a pre-poll voting station in Mitchell. No offences were identified, and at this time no further police action was anticipated.