EXCLUSIVE: With the Australian Christian Lobby still reeling from its massive defeat on the same-sex marriage plebiscite late last year, True Crime News Weekly can now reveal how a postal prank by activists eventually led to what may have been an attempted terrorist hoax that backfired on the ACL’s public face at the time, Lyle Shelton.
During the Same-Sex Marriage plebiscite one of the most active organisations working on behalf of the ‘No’ campaign, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), was subjected to a uniquely targeted type of activism.
Social media users on Facebook and Twitter became aware of the existence of a reply paid postal address in use by the ACL. This meant that any mail sent to the address would have the postage paid for by the ACL. The address was initially shared by a few people on Facebook in online posts and threads, and the idea seems to have lit a fire among those who found the ACL’s vocal public opposition to same sex marriage abhorrent.
True Crime News Weekly spoke with one such individual, we’ll call him Benny since he would rather remain anonymous. Benny told us that he saw the reply paid address in a Facebook thread about the ACL sometime in June 2017.
“I saw that someone had shared the address, and thought to myself how it would be great if lots of people sent snail mail [postage] to the ACL to tie up their resources. So I started sending them questions about the Christian religion, smiley faces, store catalogues, and anything else I got my hands on,” he explained.
“I thought for a pack of 100 business envelopes costing me $6 at a supermarket I am getting a lot of joy and working on behalf of opposing bigotry. I even got a stamp made with the address on it to streamline my processes”
It wasn’t a bad strategy either, particularly if it was taken up by a few other people as well. Australia Post lists its fees for reply paid postage as:
Benny says he mainly sent standard envelopes and business size.
“But I occasionally treated myself to a pack of 25 A4 envelopes, and stuck half a dozen shop catalogs in each, knowing it was going to cost them $5.35 for each an taking 10 minutes of my time to annoy bigots”.
The only downside at the time was there was no ‘feedback’, not knowing whether or not the mail was having the desired result.
That was until August 22, 2017, when Lyle Shelton confirmed on his Twitter feed that indeed, the mail was getting through.
The next day New Maltildapublished an article about Shelton’s confirmation entitled ‘If You Mail The Australian Christian Lobby An Envelope Full Of Glitter, They’ll Pay For the Stamp!’
The article included the address and Shelton’s Twitter post from the previous day.
But the ACL pressed onwards. Lyle Shelton’s Twitter feed, on August 24, 2017, alluded to “an unknown substance (glitter)” being sent to the ACL’s reply paid address, once again providing confirmation to every active and potential postal activist.
Then, on August 25, 2017, there were reports all over the mainstream media outlets of an ‘unknown substance’ scare at ACL headquarters in Deakin, ACT, involving mail sent containing ‘white powder’. The scare caused a Fyshwick mail centre to be evacuated. The ABC reported that the Australian Federal Police had sent the substance for testing, but
it was subsequently found to be harmless.
You could be forgiven for wondering if the Twitter drops on successive days, followed by the ‘white powder’ scare involving the AFP and Australia Post might have been just a little bit of a stunt which the mainstream media outlets fell for.
However the whole thing took a turn for the worse for the ACL. With confirmation of the reply paid address being fully functional, the ACL was inundated with mail they had to pay for. Insiders say what had been a trickle, became an avalanche. Sources in Australia Post suggest the mail continues to arrive long after the same sex marriage debate
has been decided.
True Crime News Weekly spoke with officials at the ACL, who would only confirm mail had been received. While their spokesman requested our conversation be kept off the record, he was very keen to talk about the Australia Post centre at Fyshwick being shut down. A series of questions was sent to the ACL, but they declined to answer any
One of the questions we asked was whether the activist mail campaign was in any way responsible for Lyle Shelton leaving for the greener pastures of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. While we received no answer, we are certain the activists out there are hoping Lyle Shelton sets up a reply paid postal address for Cory Bernadi as well.