Homophobic emails against Kerryn Phelps referred to counter-terrorism squad

Police escalate the emails containing homophobic slurs and naming her three children to the fixated persons unit

Homophobic emails directed against the independent MP for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, have been referred to the counter-terrorism squad after the latest round named Phelps’s children.

Phelps said she went to Kings Cross police station on Wednesday after the latest abusive emails began arriving in constituents’ mailboxes and her office received reports of them.

The emails contain homophobic slurs and name her three children. They criticise Phelps for being in a same-sex relationship and describe the idea of two mothers as “disgusting”.

Phelps said the New South Wales police “immediately saw the threat and escalated it to the counter-terrorism squad”. “They also referred the emails to the Fixated Persons Unit as by any measure this is a fixation,” she said.

Phelps has now documented 10 different emails that have been sent to voters in Wentworth. The matter was referred to the Australian federal police when they first started arriving in October 2018, before the byelection, but Phelps said despite more emails arriving, the AFP had terminated the investigation.

She said she had also contacted the prime minister’s office over the emails seeking more protection and help to trace them.

The emails all contain the same rambling syntax. They rant against the LGBTQI community and have also falsely claimed that Phelps has been disqualified from the election because she is Jewish and entitled to Israeli citizenship.

They also claim that Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate, will ban adoption by same-sex couples and will allow the use of the swastika “because he is of Indian background”. This is also false. Some urge a vote for Sharma.

Sharma said he was appalled by the emails and shared Phelps’s concerns. “I have engaged a team of cybersecurity experts to investigate these malicious emails, with a view to shutting this down,” he said.

“This team has succeeded in locating the servers which are hosting these emails, and in having them shut down. The perpetrator, who appears to be a single individual, has changed servers multiple times, usually signing up for free trials in order not to disclose payment and other identifying details,” he said.

Sharma said the team had identified a number of email addresses and phone numbers associated with the perpetrator, which should aid in their identification.

Phelps also told the Guardian that she and her partner, Jackie Stricker, had reported to police that they had been followed in recent days. Stricker has provided a description of the older man she believes followed her in Bondi Junction and on another occasion.

Meanwhile the temperature has risen in Warringah after GetUp accused the Liberal MP Tony Abbott’s office of using its rightwing media connections to push “baseless claims” against GetUp staff.

At issue are posters featuring Tony Abbott’s face and the words “CUNT”, “PELL” and “COAL” across his forehead. The posters appeared around the electorate in late April and did not carry any endorsement.

The Australian reported that Abbott’s office had provided Facebook photos to police of two GetUp staff which they claimed matched the images in CCTV footage released by NSW police on 2 May.

2GB’s Ray Hadley rang into two programs on his own radio station on Wednesday to raise questions about why the police hadn’t charged anyone.

“There’s a question for Mick Fuller the (NSW police) commissioner, now, I know it’s a very sensitive time, but why aren’t they charged?” he said.

“I mean the NSW government is obviously very sensitive to all of this, you know, they want to make sure that it’s done by police and not by them, or directions from them, but the government and the minister responsible, David Elliott, knows who they are…”

The GetUp national director, Paul Oosting, said this amounted to pressuring the police.

“GetUp can categorically say no staff were involved in the incident in any way. In fact one of the accused was interstate at the time.”

“I call on the police commissioner to reassure the public his officers are not being exploited for political purposes.”

The NSW police issued a statement saying: “The matter remains under investigation by New South Wales Police.”

While postering without endorsements may amount to a breach of the electoral laws , a ruling by the NSW district court last year in an appeal by activist Danny Lim, appeared to suggest the word “cunt” may no longer be offensive.

The judge, Andrew Scotting, noted the word was referenced in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was used regularly on television, and was less offensive in Australia than other English-speaking countries. Lim won the appeal.


Anne Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Kerryn Phelps frustrated over police investigation into antisemitic emails
Independent MP targeted alongside Josh Frydenberg and Julian Leeser by string of abuse during Australian election campaign

Michael McGowanand Nick Evershed

06, May, 2019 @3:35 AM

Article image
Clive Palmer candidate wants to preference Tony Abbott in a blow to Zali Steggall
United Australia’s Suellen Wrightson says choice in Warringah is between Liberal party and ‘the GetUp mob’

Sarah Martin

24, Apr, 2019 @2:32 AM

Article image
Coalition threatens to retaliate against Kerryn Phelps over Dutton referral
Christopher Pyne says Wentworth MP’s work as a GP – and that of two other members – could also disqualify her from sitting in parliament

Paul Karp

27, Nov, 2018 @10:14 PM

Article image
Morning mail election extra: budget 'holes', flubbed lines and social media misfires
Week two: leaders criss-cross the country with Scott Morrison digging up carrots and Bill Shorten hitting a food court

Naaman Zhou

19, Apr, 2019 @8:45 PM

Article image
'Hindsight is a wonderful thing': how GetUp's election campaign fell flat
In the wake of the Coalition’s shock victory, the tactics of the progressive activist group have come under scrutiny

Michael McGowan

25, May, 2019 @10:10 PM

Article image
'And this is Mosman!': genteel Warringah rocked by election rancour
In the well-heeled Sydney seat, the independent Zali Steggall has become a lightning rod for local insurgents and Tony Abbott stalwarts alike, writes Anne Davies

Anne Davies

16, May, 2019 @2:26 AM

Article image
Kerryn Phelps condemns offshore detention in first speech – as it happened
On first day of minority government, independent member for Wentworth says ‘we must find a compassionate compromise’. This blog is now closed

Amy Remeikis

26, Nov, 2018 @7:19 AM

Article image
Independents Kerryn Phelps and Zali Steggall buoyed by NSW election results
High-profile federal candidates point to progressive swings in Sydney’s east and north shore as evidence climate change remains key issue

Anne Davies

24, Mar, 2019 @1:42 AM

Article image
Energy minister Angus Taylor may face former GetUp chair Anne Coombs at election
The journalist and activist is considering joining the movement of independents seeking to dislodge Coalition MPs at next election

Gabrielle Chan

09, Nov, 2018 @3:21 AM

Article image
Warringah voters complain about free copies of Daily Telegraph as election rancour boils
Supporters of both Tony Abbott and Zali Steggall accuse the other side of underhand tactics

Anne Davies

18, Apr, 2019 @11:50 PM