The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has been asked to investigate how an anti-marriage equality group obtained the private email addresses of several current and former members of the NSW Liberal party.
Last month, several people complained they had received unsolicited correspondence to private email addresses from the Marriage Alliance, a group opposing same-sex marriage that launched in mid-2015.
The email criticised Labor leader Bill Shorten and asked for donations.
Sports writer Erin Riley told BuzzFeed News in April she and other recipients who had not signed up to the Marriage Alliance mailing list realised the one thing they had in common was being a former or current member of the Liberal party.
“When I got the Marriage Alliance email, it was to my personal email address, which isn’t public. I rarely sign up to things with that email address, but it was the one I had associated with the Liberal party. And that was a common thread among the people I spoke to,” she said.
In a submission seen by BuzzFeed News, the OAIC is being asked to investigate whether Liberal party email lists were improperly provided to or accessed by Marriage Alliance.
The OAIC is also being asked to investigate whether privacy laws were breached.
BuzzFeed News understands that neither the NSW Liberal party nor Marriage Alliance has provided a substantive explanation for how the private email addresses were obtained.
Several complaints were made to the NSW Liberal party in April, and an internal investigation was launched into the matter. A spokesperson for the party told BuzzFeed News the investigation is “ongoing”.
Several of the people behind Marriage Alliance have links to the Liberal party.
Spokesperson Sophie York, who signed off the email, previously sought Liberal preselection in the seat of Bradfield.
Tio Faulkner, who authorises the Marriage Alliance website and their TV advertisements, is a former president of the ACT Liberals and a former staffer for senator Zed Seselja. Ashley Goldsworthy, a Marriage Alliance director, is a former federal Liberal president.
Marriage Alliance spokesperson Sophie York did not return a request for comment.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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