Labor calls for investigation into potentially illegal Malcolm Turnbull posters

Labor claims this poster is illegal because it doesn’t carry proper authorisation. Photo: Fiona Morris Read the fine print: If you look closely you can see the Liberal Party authorisation. Photo: Fiona Morris

Liberals hold Hockey’s seat despite 13 per cent swing

Labor will ask electoral authorities to investigate whether the Liberal Party used illegal posters of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in its campaign to hold on to Joe Hockey’s former seat.

ALP National Secretary George Wright will write to the Australian Electoral Commission over corflute posters of a grinning Mr Turnbull – on display across the North Sydney electorate as voters went to the polls on Saturday – with no clearly visible party authorisation.

Mr Wright believes the posters could contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which dictates that all such campaign material must contain the name and address of the authorising person.

A Liberal spokesperson said all the party’s campaign material contained the necessary authorisation details.

Indeed, a close look at one of the corflutes revealed an authorisation was there – but hidden behind a frame and so minuscule it was barely visible.

The federal Department of Finance’s 2013 Electoral Law Authorisation Guidelines says while there is no requirement that authorisations be a particular size they should always be “reasonably legible and accord with relevant signage industry practice”.

If the corflutes do constitute a breach of the act it could be a costly mistake for the Liberals, with fines of up to $5000 per poster.

The Liberals were on track to retain the seat at the Saturday by-election – sparked by Mr Hockey’s decision to resign from Parliament after Mr Turnbull took the leadership – but were bracing for a significant swing.

With 28 per cent of the vote counted at 8pm on Saturday, Mr Zimmerman – a former staffer to Mr Hockey – was in the lead with 47 per cent of first preference votes. That represents a 14 per cent swing against the party since Mr Hockey’s 2013 result.

Independent Stephen Ruff was running second with 19 per cent of the vote and the Greens’ Arthur Chesterfield-Evans was third on 16.5 per cent.

Labor chose not to run a candidate in the seat, which has been in Liberal hands for most of the last 70 years.

Earlier opinion polls had put Mr Zimmerman comfortably ahead of the 11 other candidates but that didn’t stop him making a last-minute campaign blitz of all 36 polling stations across the affluent electorate.

“It’s a tough contest,” he said after casting his vote. “I don’t think you can take any seat for granted any more.”

Mr Zimmerman’s win has made him the first openly gay man elected to Federal Parliament’s lower house.

Analysts put the swing largely down to Mr Hockey’s personal popularity in the seat he held for nearly two decades. But concerns over the NSW Liberal government’s council amalgamation plans were also thought to be playing a role.

Asked whether the messy week in Federal Parliament – marked by ongoing controversy surrounding frontbencher Mal Brough and the defection of Ian Macfarlane – had damaged his campaign, Mr Zimmerman was upbeat.

“It’s not something that residents have been raising with me,” he said. “They’re focused on our local plans but also Malcolm Turnbull’s very positive agenda for Australia.”

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