Craig Kelly defeats AEC lawsuit over election posters

A NSW court has rejected electoral commission claims that ex-MP Craig Kelly used the wrong font size in allegedly non-compliant federal election signage.

A NSW court has rejected electoral commission claims that ex-MP Craig Kelly used the wrong font size in allegedly non-compliant federal election signage. Photo: AAP

Claims former politician Craig Kelly breached electoral laws by using non-compliant United Party Australia federal election campaign material have been rejected by a court.

On Thursday, an Australian Electoral Commission lawsuit against the firebrand ex-MP for the NSW seat of Hughes was dismissed in the Federal Court.

The AEC had argued Mr Kelly’s UAP posters – which were displayed in the run-up to the 2022 federal election – did not have all the required authorisations clearly visible.

The commission sought penalties against Kelly, claiming the authorisation lines – which list the person who approved the posters and their address – were not “reasonably prominent” or “legible at a distance” to voters.

The former MP denied any contravention but argued that even if he did breach the law, he should not be hit with penalties because he acted under a “mistaken but reasonable belief” that the signs were compliant.

He also claimed the AEC’s sought-out decision denied him his implied constitutional freedom of government and political communication.

Justice Steven Rares tossed the lawsuit, finding the required details would have been “reasonably prominent” to a voter who approached the posters in broad daylight when they were intended to be read at voting time.

The law was not designed to operate “in each and every one of the possible ambient conditions at all hours of the day and night”, the judge found.

“Rather, the determination only required, as a practical and reasonable measure, that the particulars be legible at one distance at which it is intended to be read,” he said.

Justice Rares accepted that Kelly had intended to comply with the law when designing the posters, and had believed they fulfilled all requirements.

Viewing the corflutes outside in broad daylight, the judge said he could see the authorisation lines “without difficulty”.

He ordered the electoral commission to pay Mr Kelly’s legal costs.

On Twitter, Kelly criticised the AEC saying that commissioner Tom Rogers should resign, sack someone or at least issue an apology.

“Someone at the Australian Electoral Commission should be out of a job by lunchtime today for abusing the AEC’s powers and wasting at least $1 million of taxpayers money on a frivolous & malicious prosecution,” he wrote.

An AEC spokesperson acknowledged the judgment but declined to comment further saying it would take time to fully review the court’s reasons.

After switching from the federal Liberals to the Clive Palmer-backed UAP, Kelly failed to retain Hughes which was won by the Liberal Party’s Jenny Ware.


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