Fact check: Ferguson Street level crossing removal project signage

A Hobsons Bay Councillor has taken aim at Labor Candidate for Williamstown Melissa Horne with more conspiracy theories.

Creative conspiracy theories continue to fuel an election campaign by a Hobsons Bay City Councillor who is contesting the seat of Williamstown as an independent candidate in the Victorian State Election on November 24.

The Councillor has once again made a number of claims regarding the removal of the level crossing at Ferguson Street in Williamstown, a project that is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to remove 50 level crossings across Melbourne by 2022.

In a recent post to social media, the Councillor said they are “puzzled by developments at North Williamstown Station” and made reference to a “blacked out” sign that was formally advertising the removal of the level crossing at the site.

The Councillor continued their claims suggesting that ­perhaps “the Labor candidate called in a favour of her LXRA mates” to blackout the sign, further alleging “Labor’s panic” over an alleged “introduction of a sky rail” being a “liability for the election”.

“I, along with North Williamstown residents, am a bit puzzled by developments at North Williamstown Station. This sign used to claim that the level crossing at this station was one of Victoria’s 50 most dangerous and congested. It was recently blacked out,” they said.

“Residents want to know why. Is the blackout a sign of Labor’s panic in realising that removing the level crossing and the introduction of sky rail is a liability for the election? Has the Labor candidate called in a favour of her LXRA mates?”

“Residents still don’t know why the design plan for this crossing was delayed until after the election. There is so much secrecy and zero transparency around this project! Election is only two days away and local residents have the right to know what they are voting for.”

Following publication of the latest collection of conspiracy theories, Willy and Hobby was able to confirm that in the lead-up to the Victorian State Election, the advertisement was among many that were covered to comply with the Caretaker Conventions.

The Guidelines on the Caretaker Conventions 2018 SECT 2.24 states that Agencies must comply with Part 5A of the Public Administration Act 2004 and any regulations prescribed under that Act in relation to public sector communications.

“Agencies should ensure that any material published is in the public interest and is not designed or intended to directly or indirectly influence public sentiment for or against a political party, candidate for election, member of Parliament, or current government.”

The Guidelines also state that the other sections of the Act also apply at all times, including during the caretaker period, also referencing the Public Administration Act 2004 SECT 97C which contains the public sector communication standards.

“A body that publishes a communication must ensure the communication is not designed or intended to directly or indirectly influence public sentiment for or against a political party, candidate for election, member of Parliament, or current government.”

The latest conspiracy theories follow other claims made including suggestions that the level crossing removal was ‘put on the backburner’ because Melissa Horne, a former executive at the Level Crossing Removal Authority, was running as Labor’s Candidate for Williamstown.

The Councillor also claimed the government wanted “to wait until after the election to come out with plans that are most likely to be unpalatable” and residents can “expect a skyrail to emerge once the election is out of the way.” A fact check also proved those claims wrong.

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