The Australian Election Commission (AEC) has taken former United Australia Party candidate and Member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, to court over the authorisation lines on his political signs and sandwich boards used during the 2022 Federal Election campaign.
Mr. Kelly is accused of failing to properly format the election advertising material with the AEC alleging that Mr. Kelly's signs did not use the correct legal authorisation. Authorisation lines refer to the fine print at the bottom of political advertising.
The AEC requires that such text be "“reasonably prominent” and “legible at a distance at which the communication is intended to be read”. Mr. Kelly's signs originally used 8 point font, but even after later reprints were made with 24 point font, the AEC alleges the originals continued to be used during the election campaign. As a result, Mr. Kelly could face a fine of up to $26,600.
The AEC first warned Mr. Kelly about the posters in March of 2022 and then sought an injunction from the Federal Court to prevent Kelly from using the posters. Mr. Kelly has denied any wrongdoing, and stated in court that he had left such formatting decisions to the "professional experience" of the designers. Mr. Kelly's legal team stated that he had done "everything that was humanly possible" to rectify the issues. The court also heard that the AEC refused to answer Mr. Kelly's repeated requests as to the locations of the signs in question.
Mr. Kelly's barrister, Christopher Ward, argued that there was "no doubt the words are legible," to which Justice Rares responded:
“You’d have to be practically cuddling the sign to read the authorisation."
After 3 days in court the matter has been adjourned. The Attorney-General's department is now also involved in the case as the outcome could affect how current legislation is interpreted and potentially lead to legislative change.
Craig Kelly is a former Australian politician who served as the Member of Parliament for the Division of Hughes from 2010 to 2022. He was a member of the Liberal Party until 2022 before then joining the United Australia Party (UAP).