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Australian Electoral Commission criticised for communication with Craig Kelly

A judge has called into question the appropriateness of communication from the Australian Electoral Commission to former federal MP Craig Kelly over his political advertising.

user iconNaomi Neilson 12 July 2023 Big Law
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In proceedings before the Federal Court, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) was told it was inappropriate for it not to be more forthcoming with the former United Party Australia MP over what it claims was non-compliance in his campaign posters.

The AEC brought legal action over the font size of the authorisation line on Mr Kelly’s campaign materials, which Mr Kelly said he had a graphic designer create in the lead-up to last year’s federal election.

AEC’s barrister, Christopher Tran, said the first print run of the posters featured the line in a “very small” size eight font, which was overshadowed by the “very large” font used for Mr Kelly’s name.


The commission has argued it made it illegible for a passer-by.

“Knowing that authorisation is actually self-promotion is very important,” Mr Tran said during his closing submissions.

Appearing for Mr Kelly, Christopher Ward said his client had received a letter from the AEC about the potential breaches and “within a heartbeat” attempted to fix the mistake by increasing the font size.

Mr Ward said Mr Kelly also asked the commission where the remaining offending posters were located but was not told.

Justice Steven Rares said he did not think this refusal to tell Mr Kelly was an “appropriate way for a regulator to be behaving”.

“During an election campaign, one would have thought your client would have been assiduous to tell people ‘you’ve got a contravention at this location, you’re misleading people, get it down or get it fixed.’

“Yet, you’re not telling the person who’s committing what you say is a serious contravention where it is so they can fix it,” he said.

Justice Rares also cautioned the AEC over its readability argument, adding it was “odd” for it to expect a passer-by to be able to read the authorisation line at the same distance as the larger message.

Mr Kelly is facing a maximum penalty of $26,640 for falling “well short” of political advertising requirements.

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