Liberal Party sends robo-texts to voters after suspected asylum-seeker boat intercepted
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Liberal Party sends robo-texts to voters after suspected asylum-seeker boat intercepted

The Liberals have sent a slew of robot-texts to voters after seizing Scott Morrison’s announcement that an asylum-seeker ship had been intercepted, apparently en route to Australia.

Liberal Party sends robo-texts to voters after suspected asylum-seeker boat intercepted

A Liberal Party spokesperson confirmed it sent text messages to an unknown number of cell phone numbers on Saturday afternoon advising people to vote liberal to “keep our borders safe”.

The message read: “BREAKING – Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders safe by voting liberal today.”.

Screenshots of the posts have been widely shared on social media and received by voters in heavily contested seats, including Gilmore, Corangamite, and Bennelong.

The Australian Electoral Commission said it knew the texts had been sent, but such messages were not prohibited by election law, which exempts political parties from privacy and spam laws.

Camera icon The Liberal Party confirmed it had sent the messages to an undisclosed number of cell phone numbers on Saturday afternoon. Delivered Credit: Delivered

Refugee lawyer and former Socceroo Craig Foster said the reports were “absolutely disgusting”.

“Using vulnerable people, minority communities to foment fear, division, and demonization for political gain,” he wrote on Twitter.

“My deepest apologies and solidarity to our wonderful Australian-Sri Lankan community for using it this way. We have to be better than this.”

Not long before the messages were sent, the prime minister used his last media conference of the campaign to announce that a boat had been intercepted Saturday morning after it set out from Sri Lanka.

There were reportedly about 15 people on board the ship that was stopped by Australian authorities off the west coast of Christmas Island after it nearly reached the mainland.

Those people boarded an Operation Sovereign Borders ship on Saturday afternoon, where their credentials were verified.

Morrison claimed he wanted to share the information with Australians in the spirit of “complete transparency”.

“I’ve been here to stop this boat, but to make sure I can be there to stop those coming from here, you must vote for Liberal and Nationals today,” he said.

“The PvdA has been informed of this in the interest of full transparency, and a statement has been issued by the border security authorities.”

Mr. Morrison had previously stated that there would be no public discussion of “water issues” when he was immigration minister, and Australia began returning asylum seekers’ vessels to sea in November 2013.

Greens leader Adam Bandt questioned the “incredible” timing of the day’s events.

“Anyone who remembers the Tampa crisis knows that the Liberals will go to great lengths to win votes,” he wrote on Twitter.

“This looks like a cynical and disgusting stunt and one last reason people should vote Scott Morrison out today.”

The coalition has tried to revive the debate over borders in the run-up to the election, claiming that a Labor government would be soft on immigration and tempt people smugglers to resume their travels to Australia.