As social media begins to play a larger role in political dialogue, federal and local politics crossed paths this week in a vibrant online exchange of words.
Commenting on a Fairfax Media Facebook post outlining a $1.6 million federal funding announcement for an Eden intersection, Bega Valley Shire councillor Mitchell Nadin questioned Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly’s commitment to the region.
The councillor’s comment quickly drew the attention of Dr Kelly, who stated he visited Eden the same day as Liberal senator Jim Molan, who made the funding announcement.
Dr Kelly accused Cr Nadin of “playing childish politics”, suggesting if he concentrated on local government matters the Bega Valley “would be better off”.
“I prefer action than words,” Cr Nadin said, which drew a lengthy response from Dr Kelly outlining his work in Opposition, including with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and as shadow Assistant Minister for Defence Industry and Support.
Speaking on Wednesday, Dr Kelly said social media has become a “two-edged sword”, providing an avenue to communicate with the public, but also carrying with it a “dark side” of misinformation.
“I have to say I’m very disappointed, I’ve never had a councillor play cheap politics in that way. It’s astonishing that in that same week I’d been in the region twice,” Dr Kelly said.
“People try to destroy your reputation, and I’ve never stooped to character assassination over discussing policy.
“I try to ignore the trolls and just respond to my constituents.”
Cr Nadin said it was his job to hold Dr Kelly “to account”, describing the initial post as “benign”, and “just an observation”.
“I am happy to give credit where it’s due, and I praise [his work on] the [regional] hospital, but that was many years ago,” Cr Nadin said.
“It’s nothing to do with a personal attack at all, I’m sure he’s a nice bloke.
“I think he has an axe to grind, there was very little substance to it [the initial post].”
Despite the exchange, both said they would be happy to work together in the future.
“I’ve worked well with council in the past, and we’ve understood respect, dignity and serving the community is how we work,” Dr Kelly said.