North Mackay's Jared James O'Callaghan is taking on the Electoral Commission Queensland in court over an infringement notice for failing to vote in council elections.
North Mackay's Jared James O'Callaghan is taking on the Electoral Commission Queensland in court over an infringement notice for failing to vote in council elections. Facebook

Pizza Hut driver takes on Electoral Commission in court

A PIZZA Hut delivery driver is taking on the Electoral Commission Queensland in a David versus Goliath battle playing out in a Mackay court.

Jared James O'Callaghan, of North Mackay, was enrolled but didn't vote in the Mackay Regional Council quadrennial election, held on March 19 last year.

He was issued a fine, thought to be about $100, but chose to meet the government body in court instead, protesting his innocence.

The 26-year-old, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of failure to vote, argued he had a solid excuse.

During a Mackay Magistrates Court hearing that lasted almost two hours, he explained he had moved house before the election, did not receive a mailed notice and had no idea the election was on.

"I do not watch the news, read newspapers or talk to many people so I was not aware of the local election," Mr O'Callaghan wrote as his excuse to the Commission.

"The only form of media I see is Facebook and there was nothing about it on there."

He argued in court a paid Facebook post by the Commission, read by more than 276,000 users, only reached a small percentage of Queensland's 4.6million population. Further, Mr O'Calaghan said his weekly pay, roughly $310 after tax, left him only $60 to buy food after other expenses, so he would have gladly voted to avoid a fine - if he had known about the election.

Prosecutor Cosmo Cater, instructed by the Commission, argued Mr O'Callaghan's excuse was not "valid and sufficient" and the Commission had made every effort to inform voters, including through Facebook.

He argued Mr O'Callaghan was aware of the 'search' function on Facebook and should have used it.

Ms Cater called three witnesses by phone - Commission officer Bill Huey, former Commission Facebook page administrator Georgia Peard and current administrator Nicole Butler.

Mr Huey spoke about the Commission's contact with Mr O'Callaghan after the election, while Ms Peard and Ms Butler spoke about the logistics and reach of Facebook advertising.

Magistrate John Aberdeen asked Mr Huey whether others who failed to vote provided similar excuses.

The Commission got "thousands of excuses", Mr Huey said.

Mr Aberdeen reserved his decision and adjourned the matter until April 28 in the court.


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