Ipswich candidate threatens voters with defamation suits
AN Ipswich mayoral candidate has threatened to sue at least five voters for defamation because of their online posts.
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Patricia Petersen, a rank outsider in the race according to a Galaxy-Queensland Times voter poll this week, says she was out to stop online bullying.
But one of the people who ran foul of her, Brian Branch, believes she is being heavy handed about simple free speech.
Mr Branch, a Willowbank resident who is still deciding who to vote for, said he had not sought any legal advice over a threat from Ms Petersen that she would sue for defamation if he didn't remove a post. He said he knew of at least three other people who had received a similar threat - and Ms Petersen confirmed she had contacted five others.
Mr Branch said: "I was surprised to get a message and surprised that she would claim defamation for (the comment).''
He had been commenting on a QT story encouraging people to use their preferences at the up-coming August 19 election.
"I'll encourage everybody to use their preferences. They are there to be used...," he wrote.
Ms Petersen responded with her own views on preferences, to which Mr Branch responded "you don't know what you're talking about".
He followed that with: "If people don't use their preferences, their vote expires. If 66% vote for non-councillors, but most don't use their preferences, then one of the two councilors will get in with 33% of the voter base. I'll encourage everyone to put the two amigos in the last two positions, and preference to their choice from there."
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Shortly after he received a private message from Ms Petersen suggesting another comment was defamatory.
The exchange ended in a request for a postal address to direct legal action.
Ms Petersen hasn't shied away from the issue, saying she had taken a stand against what she claimed was online bullying.
She said similar messages have been sent to about five other people. However, no legal action has been taken and almost all who received a message have apologised.
"Two immediately removed the material as soon as I pointed out it was defamatory," Ms Petersen said.
"Everyone makes mistakes and I am not going to hold anything against anyone.
"I don't shirk away from this," Ms Petersen said.
"People need to know there are consequences."