Busselton Mayor shocked at candidate’s offensive statements

Busselton Mayor Grant Henley says he’s shocked to see the comments from local man Stephen Wells who is running for council.

OUTinPerth has revealed that Wells, a campaigner against drag performers and Pride events, has in the past made comments which have labeled as homophobic, transphobic, racist, misogynistic and antisemitic.

Warning: This story has details of wide-ranging discriminatory comments, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

He also took part in a video podcast where he outlined how a candidate could easily keep their nationalistic and racist views out of their campaign strategy, and then go on to implement their agenda once elected.

Councilor Henley is not contesting the local government election. He is retiring from the council having served as a councilor since 2009 and inhabiting the role of Mayor since 2015.

“I am very shocked and disappointed to see these views expressed by someone who considers themselves suitable to serve the community in the role of councilor,” Mayor Henley told The West Australian.

“It is equally disturbing to see the openly stated intention to deceive the electorate by hiding their true intentions and not being honest and accountable to those whose votes they are seeking to gain office.

“The stated aims of infiltrating local government to achieve a broader agenda and ignorance of the role of local government is also worrying.”

 The mayor said residents needed to research the background of candidates and question their motivation for running for council before casting their vote.

Councilor Ross Paine, who is running for re-election, has also called on community members to ignore Wells’ campaign.

“Don’t cast your vote for those who promote racism, sexism, COVID denial, or chaos. Stephen Wells and his ‘red pill’ allies pose a real threat, not only to our community but to democracy itself.” Councilor Paine said on social media.

Wells has defended his comments describing them to the ABC as “Christian views”. In a statement to OUTinPerth he refuted the suggestion that he was keeping his political views a secret from voters.

“I have been openly speaking and writing my views in many places, it is illogical for anyone to assume I am hiding any of my views.” he said.

Wells describes himself as a local resident who has worked in a range of unspecified professions ranging from low-skilled work to high -skilled roles, including running his own business.

“I understand the lives of many different people and am well suited to represent the views of all the residents of our community.” he says his candidate profile.

In online videos Wells outlines his opposition to Pride events and makes a series of derogatory comments about prominent Australians who have Asian and Indigenous ethnicity. He also states he considers all women in politics to be “whores”.

Wells candidacy has led to calls for greater transparency around people standing for election, as well as promoting questions about the state government’s slow-moving reforms of anit-vilification laws.

Brian Greig, Chair of Busselton Pride Alliance (BPA) said the comments showed the link between the neo-Nazi movement and transphobia. 

“This incident shows once again the direct link between transphobia and neo-Nazis and I call on the State Government to get moving on its long overdue LGBTI+ law reforms that deal with vilification, transgender protections and conversion practice bans.” Greig said. 

OIP Staff

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