Domain name buy-up widens levy divide

THE son of Warrnambool City councillor Brian Kelson bought several internet domain names centred around the words “Commerce Warrnambool” and “Business Warrnambool” in recent weeks, effectively blocking Commerce Warrnambool from using the simplest web address.

Commerce Warrnambool’s attempts to register a domain name revealed “eight or nine” permutations of the words “commerce Warrnambool” and “business Warrnambool” were already owned by Leighton Kelson, son of Cr Kelson.

Buying up a number of related unused domain names is typically done for one of three reasons: to protect your own site from closely named rivals, to on-sell highly desired addresses at an inflated price (a practice called cybersquatting), or to simply block someone from using those domain names. Commerce Warrnambool president Tony Herbert said the web addresses were bought in the past three weeks in the wake of the controversial proposed levy, which aims to promote Warrnambool businesses but has met strong opposition.

Cr Kelson, a vocal opponent of the proposed business levy, said his son was unavailable for comment as he was on holidays. 

Brian Kelson

Brian Kelson

Tony Herbert

Tony Herbert

He said he had not spoken to his son about the domain names, adding that he had only heard “bits and pieces” about the matter but didn’t really know anything about it.

He cited “the words of our immortal chief executive” and said he “couldn’t tell his (36-year-old) son what to do or not to do”.

Cr Kelson was referring to Warrnambool City council chief executive Bruce Anson’s response after it was revealed that Mr Anson’s son had sent correspondence to The Standard under the pseudonym Wilma Wright disparaging former councillor Jennifer Lowe, Cr Peter Hulin and council candidate Peter Sycopoulis during the last local election campaign.

Cr Kelson said people should believe him even though he himself didn’t believe Mr Anson when he had used the same response.

However, Mr Herbert said Cr Kelson knew about the purchases when he rang to ask him about it. 

“(Cr Kelson) said I couldn’t buy them from (Leighton) ... because they might be worth a bit of money down the track,” Mr Herbert said.

“(Cr Kelson) said he was aware (the domain names) had been purchased but said ‘I’ve got no control over my son’.

“Then (Cr Kelson) said ‘why don’t you have a talk to the CEO (Mr Anson) about what his son did?’ and I said ‘what’s that got to do with anything?’.”

Commerce Warrnambool has since registered after discovering a number of permutations registered to Leighton Kelson, including and, and therefore unavailable.

Cr Kelson said his son worked in “a number of different fields” including “jewellery, imports and manufacturing”.

Mr Herbert said the Commerce Warrnambool website was being set up following a city council meeting so business owners could view the proposals in their entirety.

“We’ve been trying to have an open discussion about Commerce Warrnambool and the levy and the biggest complaint was we haven’t got a website,” he said.

“Then Leighton Kelson has gone out of his way to hamper our efforts (to which Cr Kelson) said ‘that’s not my problem’.

“I reckon it’s a pretty poor performance. I thought it was a really low act for someone in public office to try to stop the conversation.

“We’re just a volunteer organisation, running our own businesses and trying to think of a better way to move together as a group so that we might have some sort of larger voice in the way things are (done in Warrnambool).”

Mr Herbert said it was intended to have the website set up earlier but the volunteer organising it had moved to China. Despite being a Warrnambool business owner, Cr Kelson has not declared a conflict of interest regarding the business levy when it has been brought before council, unlike other business-owning councillors.


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