Liberal candidate Sarah Richards calls out Left for campaign of harassment and abuse

Unsuccessful Liberal candidate for Macquarie Sarah Richards has made public allegations of a three-year campaign of harassment against her and her family.

In a post on her Facebook page, the Hawkesbury councillor alleged she had been forced to move house, get police protection, had property vandalised, and begin court proceedings after both herself and her family were targeted in "attacks from the Left".

Harassment: Reports of a campaign against a federal Liberal backbencher prompted Cr Sarah Richards to share her own story about being harassed. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Harassment: Reports of a campaign against a federal Liberal backbencher prompted Cr Sarah Richards to share her own story about being harassed. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Cr Richards said her children - aged 11, eight and seven - had repeatedly been photographed and the pictures distributed electronically as part of the "bullying, intimidation, down right [sic] nastiness and frankly criminal acts".

"Pictures of the children have been taken and put on social media," Cr Richards told the Hawkesbury Gazette. "They have used pictures of me and my children and written false words across them in reference to my personal life.

"There are Facebook pages about me ... that post daily about what I am doing, who is visiting my house.

"One of the reasons I had to move was I live in an exposed location and had people standing across the road watching my house. I had people sticking iPhones over my back fence.

"I had people follow me down the road filming me and screaming abuse.

"It does happen on both sides of politics, but I feel the Left have more hypocrisy because they use inclusion and tolerance as political platforms, except when it's against their opinion [and] the rules don't apply."

Cr Richards admitted she had "gone out there and been very harsh on other local politicians", but that had "only ever been about their decisions".

"It's political accountability, but there is a line that should never be crossed; I wouldn't target their looks, their family, not where they live, not their personal lives. Any normal person would respect that's out of bounds," she said.

Cr Richards said her post was not meant to be a "pity party" and vowed to continue her work.

"I feel other local Liberals don't get the same level of scrutiny I do," she said. "I don't know why I am held to a higher standard or why my life has been subject to more scrutiny.

"I'm not a feminist but I do believe there is an element of me being a strong woman in politics with young children, they believe I can be intimidated. But it doesn't work."

Commenting on the standard of public discourse, Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman said she has seen a "massive decline in standards of public commentary" in 30 years.

"Sadly, every person in public life is aware that public discourse is at an all-time low, which is not OK," she said.

"There's no question that everyone should feel safe as they go about their work and in their home, with their family."

The Labor MP said it isn't just a local issue.

"We see it at a national and international level, and while it's become part and parcel of public life, we must not condone it.

"We should be able to expect a civil and courteous public debate - on social media and mainstream media, and even what people receive in their letterboxes.

"I do think social media plays a significant role. The ability to be anonymous has emboldened people to say things they probably wouldn't say if others knew who they were. While individuals can do their best to remove offensive comments, I do think Facebook and other social media platforms have a responsibility to deactivate fake accounts.

"If they can work out what kind of vacuum cleaner someone's interested in, they can weed out the fakes. If it doesn't have a photo, there are few friends and all they do is troll political pages with offensive comments, then you've got a good place to start.

"We should all be lifting the standards, and certainly, I've always tried to set a good example to volunteers and supporters, with a focus on policy and performance, not personality."

- with Damien Madigan