AFL legend Tony Liberatore charged with assaulting election worker

AFL legend Tony Liberatore charged with assaulting election worker

April 15, 2023

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AFL legend Tony Liberatore has been charged with assaulting an election worker after an alleged confrontation at a pre-poll booth on the eve of the 2022 state election.

The former Western Bulldogs star, who is the father of current Bulldogs player Tom Liberatore, has been accused of unlawfully assaulting a staff member of the Victorian Electoral Commission at a voting centre in Essendon on November 25.

Tom and Tony Liberatore share a moment after the 2016 premiership.Credit: Getty Images

The incident allegedly occurred after Liberatore was denied access to the polling booth because he apparently arrived as the facility was closing for the day.

A female member of staff was allegedly pushed against a wall during the incident, according to a source aware of the incident but not authorised to speak as the matter is now before the court.

It is unclear whether anyone was injured in the incident. Ambulance Victoria has no record of a call-out for that location and time.

The 57-year-old Brownlow Medal winner is due to appear in the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court in June after being charged on summons.

Liberatore’s solicitor, Daniel Dalli, of Aston Legal Group, said: “He will be contesting the charge.”

Several alleged incidents of violence and abuse marred the 2022 state campaign, in what politicians and election officials are concerned is a worsening trend.

A spokeswoman for the VEC declined to comment on the specifics of the Liberatore allegations.

“We can confirm that there was an incident at the Essendon Early Voting Centre at approximately 6pm on Friday, November 25, involving a member of the public and VEC election staff,” they said in a statement.

Victoria Police declined to comment on the matter because it is now before the court.

A dozen Victorian MPs have told The Age behaviour at polling booths during the November 2022 state election was the worst they had ever seen, driven mainly by conspiracy theorists and anti-lockdown activists.

The VEC was so concerned by the level of vitriol, it called for calm around polling booths after an altercation at the St Albans voting centre between Hakki Suleyman, the father of Labor minister Natalie Suleyman, and a Freedom Party activist.

It followed an alleged incident at a polling booth in Werribee between Treasurer Tim Pallas and Freedom Party candidate Mark Strother; and a separate altercation at a voting centre in Wodonga, just hours after polls opened, on the first day of early voting in which a man enraged over the state’s COVID-19 response allegedly broke another man’s leg.

“We can confirm that there were multiple incidents of poor behaviour at voting centres during the November election. As a result, the VEC issued a determination to ensure a safe and secure voting experience at all locations,” a VEC spokeswoman said.

“It’s the VEC’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for its election staff and a safe voting experience for voters, and we responded accordingly when the behaviour of voters or other electoral participants did not meet these expectations.”

Outgoing VEC Commissioner Warwick Gately told The Age in February the increasingly fiery atmosphere around polling stations had made it difficult to find enough volunteers to supervise booths and counting.

The 2022 state election had a three-fold increase in complaints about harassment and badgering of voters by candidate and party workers.

During the 2014 state election, the VEC received 50 complaints about the behaviour of candidates and party workers.

By the 2018 poll, the number of complaints jumped to about 100. In 2022, there were more than 300 complaints, some requiring police to attend polling places.

Liberatore played more than 280 games for the Western Bulldogs, then known as Footscray, and was named in their team of the century.

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