Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Unusual World Of PUP's Mark Grewar


Please explain!

(Note: Some additional items have been added through this article since it was first released.)

Running a large slate of candidates in a state election from scratch is never easy.  When the Palmer United Party (PUP) decided to run a full slate at this year's state election, I wondered who they might find to fill all the spots, having fielded only seven candidates in the state at the federal election.   When I saw PUP's Tasmanian Senator-elect Jacqui Lambie stating that she had 22 "really good" candidates ready to roll but had held back another seven I started to wonder what might be to come.


According to the Mercury:

Ms Lambie said 29 potential candidates had approached her for nomination, but seven would stay behind the scenes until the following election.
"They were really good but, politically, if I put them in a forum they would have been eaten alive and I just wasn't prepared to do that to them," she said.

Having read that, I strongly suspected that when we saw the rough edges of a few of the fish John West did not reject, our minds would be boggled with wonder at what you had to have done to fail to be accepted by the party.  Portents like the appearance of fabled Bass serial candidate Sven Wiener among the list of 100 signatures made me suspect PUP's minimum standards might be low.

Previous PUP candidate releases have been trickled out as big media announcements, with various fanfare: first the "candidate for Premier", then the Deputy Leader, then the lead Franklin candidate, then the Braddon team, and so on. This left Bass, Lyons and Denison without filled slates.  On Wednesday the names of three Bass, three Lyons and two Denison candidates were released by an unusual method - they were launched briefly in this Palmer United video, which at the time of writing had fewer than 200 views. (This video is now onto its third URL.  The original version misspelled Bass Strait as "Bass Straight" and also misspelled Kevin Deakin's surname as "Deakon".  It was replaced by a new version which corrected the first error but not the second; finally, both errors have been corrected.)  As of 31 Jan, profiles for the new Lyons and Denison candidates have been added to PUP's website.

A screenshot from the video
One of the candidates for Bass is interesting enough - Tim Parish ran as an independent last time, gaining publicity by the silly (if technically legal) gimmick of offering to buy every voter a lottery ticket if he won.  Only 484 voters thought their lucky number was coming up.  Some of the candidates on the latest PUP release are so obscure I could find nothing about them.  But one, Mark Grewar, is so unusual that my attempts to contain his bio to a mere two or three lines perpetually overflowed.  Obscure as he may be and with little chance of election as a PUP support candidate, I thought he was so colourful as to warrant an article all to himself. 

Who Is This Guy?

Mark Grewar runs a smartly-presented driver training business based in Deloraine.  He is clearly very experienced in this field and an extensive CV posted by Grewar online includes multiple qualifications in tourism, education studies in road safety.  He's a former truck and bus driver, including for Tassielink (I may have even been on a bus driven by him, and so could have many Tasmanians.)  His past professional record includes an impressive range of odd jobs in Western Australia.  An earlier business website notes him as offering wilderness walks, and an old Twitter profile also indicates a love of the great outdoors, while another site indicates he's worked in carpet cleaning. 

As well as his diverse professional experience, Mr Grewar is well used to being in the public eye.  In 2010 and 2012 Grewar claimed intriguingly that North-West coast young drivers had been passing their tests at a high rate (because they were good) and that "government assessors have been ordered from Hobart to fail more learner drivers sitting their tests."  He claimed vindication when a government report found that there were indeed unacceptable levels of variation in the pass rate of different assessors.  Even in the absence of proof of Grewar's claim that certain instructors were ordered to fail half their applicants (denied by the relevant department) it's still an interesting story, and one that would resonate with many young drivers who have been failed in an instant for seemingly trivial reasons.

So, so far we have a candidate with a wide range of real-life professional experience and a background in the public eye.  His concerns about the driver training system fit well with the excitable, conspiratorial style of politics practiced by Clive Palmer, but at the same time, it's a subject that he has much expertise in.  We can see why he might be an attractive choice of candidate for Palmer United ...

But!

Ah yes; there's always a "but", isn't there.  The first "but" is a small one, and not uncommon in the case of PUP - his enthusiasm for all things Palmer seems very new-found.  On that Twitter profile years ago he appeared friendly to the Greens (and in late 2010 wanted to help "raise awareness of forest destruction" only to find no-one home at Camp Flozza).  Indeed in March 2013 he wrote "liberals are money hungry c***s like labor - had enuff I AM GREEN" (my asterisks). In late 2012 he had also written "Jobs are not the key. Overpopulation is destroying the Earth - get the facts from science!"

But by late 2013 he was a fanboy for the socially-reactionary, economically protectionist Democratic Labour Party.  On a real Labor Party page, on 2 August 2013, Grewar rather pointlessly trolled: "All pollies except democratic labour party are money hungry gluttons. Should not be paid more than the dole to be a member. .so wickedly wrong".  (Comment removed since this article was written, archived here.)

An online caching service has part of another classic Grewar spray (not clear how old) that starts with "I have a VERY strong sense of social justice. I despise ALL lawyers and any power-hungry bullies (Female or male) [..]"  Hmmm, with Clive Palmer's fondness for litigation, he'll fit in perfectly!
I have a VERY strong sense of social justice. I despise ALL lawyers and any power hungry bullies (Female or male)
Read more at http://www.peekyou.com/_grewar#fJoRIagjbVZIEmLZ.99
I have a VERY strong sense of social justice. I despise ALL lawyers and any power hungry bullies (Female or male)
Read more at http://www.peekyou.com/_grewar#fJoRIagjbVZIEmLZ.99

There are also quite a few amusing social-media snippets of the candidate that can be found around the place, in a Ricky Muir sort-of fashion.  Google image brings up this on Facebook of the candidate obscuring the C in a sign pointing to BEE HIVE CANAL to spell ... well you tell me.  This sort of larrikin edge and humour is nothing really to hold against a candidate, unless ...


Consistent with his recent love for the religious DLP, and his long-term interest in matters Christadelphian, Mr Grewar's photo, name and contact details appear with him shown as a preacher for something calling itself the Deloraine Christian Fundamentalists, reportedly founded on 24 October 2013.  "We are a Fundamentalist First century based church in Deloraine Tasmania" is the only information given about the church and I cannot find anything else about it anywhere.

Clicking on the link brings up a bio and something that calls itself a blog.  The bio states very accurately that Preacher Grewar has "Many years of experience in life".  The blog is just ever so slightly shorter than mine.  Here is its entire content:
"homosexualsOct 25th 2013
Romans 1:26 NLT 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. The bible clearly says it is not natural at all. So there is your answer. I suggest you memorise those verses chapter of them and verse numbers. That way when some one ask you if it is wrong you can say Rom 1:26. WOW!! That is why many don't think it is wrong. Because God let them think that way."

Part of the above is from the Bible (sort-of; it's the "New Living Translation"), and part (from "The bible" onwards) is apparently unique to this specific webpage.

When I first wrote this article I was covering myself on the question of whether Grewar himself necessarily wrote this nonsense as, while it seemed like his style and had his contact details, I'd seen  no other evidence he supported anti-gay views.  However, this (found in a Facebook cache from Jan 6 2014!) has since erased any meaningful doubt.


Grewar has also "liked" various anti-same-sex marriage items and liked a paranoid rant that among other things denies that discrimination on the basis of sexuality is a legitimate civil rights issue.  He also liked this video that argues that the Leviticus prohibitions on homosexuality are still relevant today.

Incidentally, whether or not Grewar is aware of this, Missionary Chapel and Seminary is yet another dodgy degree mill churning out bogus qualifications for money:





The views Mr Grewar has espoused are a worry given that PUP are running on the slogan "Bringing People Together".  Descriptions of gay and lesbian lifestyles as shameful, unnatural and wrong do nothing of the sort, and nor do they "unite the nation"

Mr Grewar's clear (at least until very recently) Christadelphian sympathies are even odder because Christadelphians do not usually vote, although some do. In 2009 he was "cause leader" for a different first-century team, the Original Anabaptists, who also aren't too big on politics. In the past he was a Jehovah's Witness "for 20 years".

[Three and a half paragraphs were removed from this article at this point by mutual agreement with Mark Grewar on 18 Sep 2014.  The material removed was factually accurate and further amplified the article's points about PUP's screening processes or lack thereof.  However, it was unrelated to Grewar's political views and now that he is not a candidate I do not wish its appearance here to cause him distress.]

PUP's form in candidate screening has seemed a bit erratic before, with the disendorsements of at least three federal election candidates (admittedly, other parties have this problem too) and with the strange behaviour of Jacqui Lambie already making some voters (and possibly some PUP supremos) wish much more of her own past had been public knowledge before Tasmania voted at the Senate poll.

Anyway, Mr Grewar is a fascinating candidate whose presence (however long it lasts) adds colour to the Tasmanian campaign.

Who knows what other wonders may await us as more is found about the rest of the PUP crew?

Update: More!

The "please explain" at the top of the article was unintentionally prophetic, since on a Facebook page called Pauline Hanson's Please Explain, Grewar (comment now removed - cached) referred in August last year to the residents of Afghanistan as "dune coons" and suggests tongue-in-cheek that they should have been nuked:


I have also found confirmation that Grewar at least recently was a Christadelphian, though I am not clear on whether he still is.

Update Jan 31:

Grewar's official PUP profile published here (sans photo at time of writing) states that Grewar "combines his work with full-time study to become a qualified chaplain." Oh well, beats buying quals from the Missionary Chapel (which Grewar, unlike many registered on said site, shows no evidence of having done) ...  Oddly, despite his long-term Christadelphian links, Grewar's Facebook page (loginwalled) gives his religious views as Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (ie Mormons!) (NB: link now not working, see below).

Update Feb 2:

Some Facebook material referred to in the original of this article is no longer visible - either the account has been disabled or the posts have been deleted.  Where available I have added a link to a cache.

And here's one more: Mr Grewar concerning the Australian Foreign Minister: "Sexy lady lol". 

And another: Mr Grewar on Green candidate Anna Reynolds' page, May 4 2013: "Nothing ro [sic] do with gender...like domestic violence nothing gender about it...Green and hetro [sic] is good though".  Huh?

And more


Now that from just over two months ago is not exactly consistent with PUP refugee policy.

And finally: we can see why PUP endorsed him; he's got that all-things-to-all-people thing that politicians need downpat:


Update Feb 4: The story has now broken in the mainstream press with the ABC publishing this report (in which this site is referred to merely as "a political blog") and this TV news item.  The Afghanistan Facebook post above, which is described as "allegedly [..] racist", is a major focus of the report.

Shortly thereafter, Sally Glaetzer (The Mercury) added this well-written piece, which provides new information on Grewar's family background (his father was Liberal member for Roe (WA) from 1974-1983).  It also provides responses from Mark Grewar to the exposure of his comments.  They're along the line that he's not a racist and not a homophobe and that all his comments on social media have been nothing but a joke.   I am more inclined to see comments like the "dune coons" one as being racially insensitive rather than necessarily flat-out "racist", and I can see the clumsily attempted humour in a lot of Grewar's posts.  But I really don't believe they were all nothing but humour, and when it comes to his anti-gay comments, in my view either Grewar really is anti-gay or else he finds it funny to pretend to be.  I'm not quite sure which is worse!

Georgie Burgess (The Examiner) has another article with another defence from the candidate:  "just an Australian doing silly stuff".

Update Feb 5: The story completed the trifecta of the Tasmanian papers with Doug Dingwall's account in the Advocate.  It includes the new information that Mark Grewar has admitted a mistake and "apologised" for the comments, although who to is not at this stage clear.  What is interesting is the defence from Kevin Morgan that "the party's executive interviewed candidates and selected them over a "period of time"."  The question is whether the party conducted sufficient due diligence on the output of candidates outside the interview process and I suspect that the answer is no.  After all an interview process can tell you what a candidate thinks this month but only a thorough social media search can tell you that the same candidate has been all over the political map in the previous year alone.  There is this revealing if enigmatic comment from Morgan: "In parties, things slip through the system we're not happy about".

Morgan himself tripped over in a small way when he first contested a state seat last year - in that case I found that a strangely jargonistic quote attributed to him by The Advocate in fact originated with an obscure NSW Government leadership document that had been quoted on Wikipedia. (See last year's LegCo guide near the bottom.)

Note re comments (Feb 9 - with later updates):  Several strange and abusive comments were posted here under an account claiming to be "Mark Grewar" today, following a single such comment a week ago.  Unlike many of the social media posts discussed in the article, I could not verify their authenticity.  I contacted Mr Grewar who said he didn't know who I was (though he did offer me driving lessons, which was nice of him) and in a subsequent email requested the removal of at least one of the comments. I have removed the comments and, as the authenticity of the account is unconfirmed, the account is not permitted to post here further in case it is a hoax.  However at no point did he deny or confirm authorship of the comments.  The real Mr Grewar is free to reply to this article by email with a clear request for publication at any time.

Feb 12: A small amount of national publicity in the Australian's Capital Circle containing no new information about this case but describing Grewar as one of PUP's "more outrageous candidates".

Feb 16:  A Liberal anti-Palmer attack site complete with 11 instalments (so far) of "vanessa goodwin's guide to pup candidates" (though some are just about Palmer himself) has some news about what happened when the issue was put to Clive Palmer.  Palmer is quoted as responding to the issues raised about Grewar and also Steve Green, by Jared Owens of the Australian (25 mins in here), with the following:

The task for all Australians is that we’ve got people who have different views to us some of them might be different to the mainstream, and the challenge is to change those views and change their minds.

I hardly think one changes a person's views or mind by endorsing them as an election candidate.  In any case in Grewar's case it seems you don't need to change his views, since you don't have to wait too long for him to believe something totally different.

What is amusing is that Palmer tried to write it off with a line about the Liberals "having a committee of about 15 people who look through the backgrounds of all our candidates so they can have a go at them".  I don't know who dug the dirt on Green, but in the case of Grewar, the information was researched entirely by me, voluntarily,  and I have nothing to do with the Liberal Party!  Palmer also goes into a long defence of Green over his petition signing, along the lines of it being old rope because it was signed in 2002.  No such defence is offered in the case of Grewar, and nor can it be, because the most offensive material is all less than one year old.

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  4. Comments involving an account claiming to be "Mark Grewar" have been deleted on suspicion that the account is fake. The account is permanently banned and all further comments by it will be rejected.

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  5. You may find this interesting and relating to this article.
    http://survey.fava.org.au/elections/electorates/index.php?option=com_fava&view=candidates&electorate_election=10558

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    1. I was just looking at that one just now ...

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  6. As I no longer suspect the comments posted by "Mark Grewar" in February 2014 are fake, the account "Mark Grewar" is no longer banned, and further comments by it may be accepted on conditions that have been emailed to Mr Grewar.

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  7. I have avoided undeleting the comments only as I do not wish to provoke Mr Grewar further - if he wants them undeleted I will do so.

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  8. Thanks to the person who sent me gossip, but comments on this article are now closed unless they are relevant replies by Mr Grewar.

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