Activewear company Skins was investigated by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) over an ad that promised to give away $1 million in merchandise if over 70% of Australians voted "yes" in the postal survey on same-sex marriage.
As part of legislation passed to oversee the conduct of the national postal survey on whether the law should change to allow same-sex couples to marry, it was made an offence to give or receive bribes to influence a person's response to the survey question.
In the course of the three-month survey period there was just one complaint of bribery, which was investigated by the AEC.
The complaint, obtained by BuzzFeed News using freedom of information law, was lodged at the end of October by a Malvern, Victoria resident, and complained about this competition from Skins.
If the result of the survey was at least 70% voting yes, the company pledged to give away $1 million in Skins clothing to people who entered a competition.
"My question is, is this bribery?" the person wrote in their email to the AEC. "My main concern is if this is allowed, a company in the future can do this with elections.
"For example, a corporation offers an item of value to the public if a certain party
wins the popular vote by a certain margin. I have no hate for Skins, and I enjoy using their products. But I have extreme concerns with corporations interfering with public voting. I voted 'yes' by the way."
In response, the AEC's chief legal officer, Paul Pirani said that given the offer was only fulfilled if 70% of people responded with "yes" and that anyone could enter the competition regardless of how they actually voted in the survey, it could not be considered bribery.
He said that similar promises were made in elections and were not considered bribery, either.
"The AEC’s experience dealing with such matters is that general offers of this nature will not be regarded as bribery as there is no direct benefit actually given or conferred to the individual person," he said.
"You may recall that at the last election there was a high profile matter in which a candidate made a promise to donate funds to a conservation group out of their personal funds if they were re-elected. This matter was not regarded by the relevant law enforcement officials as amounting to bribery."
That was in reference to the AEC investigating LNP member for Dawson, George Christensen, after the 2016 election for promising to personally donate $12,000 to a turtle rescue centre in the Whitsundays if he was re-elected.
Christensen withdrew his promise to donate the money after it was referred to the AEC for investigation by GetUp.
Skins ultimately didn't have to give away $1 million in merchandise anyway because the "yes" vote came in at 61.6% in the postal survey result released on November 17, 2017.
The full complaint and response can be seen below.
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at email@example.com.
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