A crude Nazi gibe has prompted mayoral candidate Matthew Hanssen to withdraw from a debate with Brad Pettitt.
The gibe from former Fremantle Society president Roel Loopers’ came after Mr Hanssen complained The Fremantle Network was too close to the mayor and should withdraw from organising the debate.
“Maybe we should get all Fremantle Network people and non-Liberal party supporters to wear a star on their chest, Matthew,” Mr Loopers said in his email. “It worked well to point out undesirables during the Third Reich.”
Mr Hanssen was devastated.
“My father is Dutch and his mother was strafed in the fields by the Luftwaffe and killed, leaving three children without a mother,” he responded.
He later told the Herald Mr Loopers’ comment was the last straw and followed a “campaign of harassment” by opponents.
“I had a rock put through the back window of my car, I had numerous signs vandalised around the place and people can see what’s going on,” he said.
A last-gasp attempt by chamber of commerce boss Tim Milsom failed to change Mr Hanssen’s mind. The chamber was also listed as an organiser.
As it turns out, Fremantle Network co-ordinator Rachel Pemberton, a city councillor and former girlfriend of Dr Pettitt, had already offered to step aside from involvement in the debate.
She defended the network’s integrity saying it didn’t have an agenda but, given her own blogging efforts in February when Mr Hanssen stood for Fremantle for the Liberals, his caution is understandable.
“Realistically, Matthew Hanssen is what we call a ‘cardboard candidate’,” Cr Pemberton blogged. “He’s not a contender, but a name on the ballot paper and that is all. It’s just a pity he opens his mouth to speak occasionally since he offers Fremantle nothing but fuel for spiteful negativity that appeals to a few in the community.”
Embedded with the blog was a photograph of one of Mr Hanssen’s campaign posters, defaced to give him a Hitler moustache and hairdo.
Mr Hanssen also asked organisers to replace suggested moderator Griffin Longley, a newspaper columnist and playground expert, as he’d written glowingly about the mayor’s skateboard park and his brother Luc had donated to Dr Pettitt’s first campaign. He was also invited to help launch the council’s Fremantle 2029 project.
Mr Longley offered to step aside but added he found Mr Hanssen’s questioning of his impartiality “comical”.
Mr Hanssen is not deterred by the criticism. “It’s not going to stop me…the more resistance I get the harder I push back in the other direction.
“If they deface my posters, I’ll make them bigger, I’ll put them higher—I will not be deterred.”
by STEVE GRANT