Conservative Lobbyists Censured for Misleading Campaign

On Monday, the AEC announced it considers signage targeting independent MP Zali Steggall and ACT Senate candidate David Pocock in breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. 

The Steggall sign shows her face behind the official Greens logo, while Pocock’s shows him wearing a Greens shirt under a white button-up. Both Steggall and Pocock are strong climate action candidates.

The signs were produced by conservative lobby group, Advance Australia. The group’s headline campaigns are military spending, “medical freedom,” and nuclear power. 

Advance Australia says it is removing “far-left control” from Australian politics. They call Greens’ policies “insane,” claim Labor plans to “lock up” cattle stations, and say Albanese is “too dumb to be prime minister.”

The group’s backers include Sam Kennard of Kennards Storage, anti-wind advocate Maurice Newman, and Dr David Adler of the Australian Jewish Association. Its offices are mostly run by ex-LNP staffers.

The Electoral Act makes it an offence “to publish…any matter or thing that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote.” Organisations in breach can be fined $105,000.

On 8 May, the AEC also announced it was “seeking information” regarding near-identical signs targeting other so-called “teal” independents: Dr Monique Ryan, Dr Sophie Scamps, Penny Ackery and Georgia Steele. Unlike the signs targeting Steggall and Pocock, these signs did not state that they were authorised by any particular organisation.

Commentators have welcomed the announcement, but questioned why it took three weeks from when Steggall and Pocock first raised concerns.

Polling suggests Steggall will retain her northern Sydney seat of Warringah, which she won from Tony Abbott in 2017. They also show Dr Ryan will strongly contest Treasurer Frydenberg’s inner-Melbourne seat and that independent Zoe Daniel is favoured to defeat Liberal MP Tim Wilson in bayside Melbourne.

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