AEC

Craig Kelly Wins in Court — But Can a Politicised AEC Hold a Fair Referendum?

28 July 2023

5 MINS

The AEC has lost its politicised case against Craig Kelly. Next job: convince Australians it will hold a fair referendum.

Democracy is only as good as its institutions. This is especially true of any institution that presides over the ballot box.

Ahead of the controversial Voice Referendum, Australians have been given reason to doubt the integrity of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), thanks to its frivolous lawsuit against Craig Kelly.

In a win for common sense, on Thursday the Federal Court dismissed the AEC’s civil case against the leader of the United Australia Party (UAP), and ordered the commission to pay Mr Kelly’s court costs.

The AEC had argued the former Liberal MP for Hughes chose a font size that was too small in the fine print section of his 2022 Federal Election posters. The posters commissioned by Mr Kelly had used 8-point text in stating the name and address of the authorising party.

AEC Conduct ‘Unreasonable’: Judge

The AEC had sought penalties against Mr Kelly, claiming his posters’ authorisation details were not “reasonably prominent” or “legible at a distance” to voters.

However, in his ruling, the judge found the AEC’s case against Mr Kelly was “unjustifiable and unreasonable”, particularly when they never informed him as to the location of the posters at issue.

As reported by The New Daily:

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”.

Using the Process as the Punishment

It is estimated the AEC used approximately $1 million in public funds for their unsuccessful pursuit of the UAP leader.

Throughout the litigious case, Mr Kelly has maintained he is the victim of a “taxpayer funded witch-hunt”. He has highlighted examples of political posters that omit authorisation details entirely, and has rightly questioned why the AEC targeted only him for prosecution.

On winning the case, Mr Kelly called on the AEC Commissioner Tom Rogers to accept responsibility and resign, or to sack the person responsible for bringing the vindictive charges against him.

UAP colleague and Senator for Victoria Ralph Babet also released a statement in the wake of the ruling. He wrote:

This has been a drain on the UAP and Mr Kelly. Even though the case has been dismissed, we had to endure the process. This is how the establishment punishes those it deems a threat, by using the system and the process to drain you emotionally and financially.

The AEC’s Persecution of Craig Kelly

Thursday’s ruling was not Mr Kelly’s first run-in with the AEC. The commission originally took him to court at 10.18pm on the eve of the 2022 Federal Election over the font size on several of his campaign signs.

In that instance, the AEC sought an immediate restraining order against Mr Kelly, requiring him to remove all existing non-compliant signage.

However, the judge dismissed the application. She found the commission’s request unreasonable, given they did not allow Mr Kelly the option to place a sticker on the signs instead of removing them. She also questioned the AEC’s decision to bring the case on election eve, when they had known of Mr Kelly’s alleged non-compliance for three weeks.

To an untainted observer, the AEC’s conduct looked like an attempt to hinder the UAP leader from campaigning on election day.

Craig Kelly is reasonable in suspecting he has been singled out for punishment.

With the taxpayer-funded ABC acting as cheer leader, the progressive establishment has made no secret of its disdain for Mr Kelly, regularly accusing him of spreading “misinformation” and “conspiracy theories”.

Can Voters Trust the AEC with the Voice Referendum?

The AEC’s legal embarrassment comes at a crucial time for Australians who want reasons to trust their electoral infrastructure.

Malfeasance and abuse of power by a politicised voting referee is not a good look.

Voters deserve to know that a neutral and apolitical commission will be in charge of the upcoming referendum — one that will ask Australians if they want their Constitution updated to enshrine a race-based Voice to Parliament.

Indeed, the AEC has already come under fire for subtly promoting the “Yes” campaign in advertisements it released on the six-year anniversary of the pro-Voice Uluru Statement of the Heart.

The AEC claimed it was merely seeking to increase Indigenous voter enrolment. However its ads featured t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Our vote, our future” worn by Indigenous youth, and a map of Australia covered in Indigenous art.

Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine submitted a complaint to the AEC, arguing  their ads were a “subtle way of promoting the Voice”, and that the commission had used messaging very similar to catchphrases pushed by the “Yes” campaign.

The AEC’s Long History of Misconduct

The Daily Declaration has previously documented alleged AEC corruption.

Our report, titled Could Voter Fraud Swing Australian Elections?, highlighted numerous forgotten facts about Australia’s electoral system:

  • During the same-sex plebiscite, 248,000 envelopes sent to Australian homes were marked “return to sender” for having an invalid address. These glaring irregularities were never forwarded to or investigated by the AEC, who had provided the addresses.
  • The 2001-2002 Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report, entitled Integrity of the Electoral Roll revealed that 4.4 percent of the 12.6 million people on the electoral roll (over 550,000 names) had records that were unable to be matched elsewhere.
  • The ANAO has released six reports from 2002 to 2015 calling attention to voter irregularities but the AEC has failed to take action on those reports’ recommendations spanning almost 15 years.
  • In a 2019 JSCEM inquiry submission, independent researcher Lex Stewart listed over a dozen cases of alleged voter fraud spanning three decades, some of which resulted in an MP losing their seat. According to Lex Stewart, the AEC presides over “an electoral roll riddled with an estimated 200,000 false enrolments that could allow massive vote frauds to pervert the result of the next elections.”
  • Dr Amy McGrath OAM made 17 submissions to various parliamentary inquiries alleging voter fraud, most of which were ignored.
  • Retired Liberal MP Hon Christopher Pyne is on record stating, “There are a lot of people out there who have been involved in electoral frauds for purposes of preselections or elections who are are too terrified to come forward and talk about it.”
  • Alex Howan, a NSW Liberal Party vice president, has stated that, “Electoral fraud, malpractice and errors are a common feature of the Australian electoral system.”

What Shall We Do With a One-Eyed Umpire?

Why did the AEC frivolously litigate over a poster font size from one controversial political figure while ignoring the same sin by others? Worse, while ignoring systemic electoral failures for decades?

Voters deserve better from an organisation that claims transparency and election integrity is at the heart of all they do.

If free, fair and transparent voting is the foundation of a healthy democracy, Australia needs a health check. Australians need more than a verbal assurance the AEC will run an impartial referendum later this year.

We want to know the result of this and every future ballot contest truly reflects the will of Australia’s citizens.

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11 Comments

  1. Warwick Marsh 28 July 2023 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Great and needed article!!!!

  2. Rae Bewsher 28 July 2023 at 9:48 am - Reply

    What I have been thinking for a long time. Who holds the AEC to account. Where are the checks in the system.

    • Jim Twelves 3 August 2023 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Agreed!

  3. H Harrison 28 July 2023 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Thankyou Kurt!! So needs to be public.

  4. Lyn Grindley 28 July 2023 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Thank you Kurt. Something has to change here before the referendum and the next election.

  5. Ian Moncrieff. 28 July 2023 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
    Who is funding this litany of obvious incompetency/corruption ? The left?

  6. Anna Soh 28 July 2023 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Ok! What next? What are we to do? Can one or more of our honourable politicians please put up the need for a Royal Commission into the AEC as enough should be enough!

    It is our politicians’ fault that the AEC dare use our hard earned tax dollars to do something as ridiculous as this! Just reading the list of issues already raised and nothing done is so upsetting, especially knowing that the very people it affects have done nothing major about this. Maybe the ones who have won are tainted and happy with their lot but wait until the tables are turned and they are out and it’s too late to fix!

    Something has to be done before it gets worse and before the Voice Referendum as no matter what the outcome the effects will be bad for all concerned if many believe that it is tainted and not a true reflection of what most people have voted.

    We need to do whatever it takes to remove the possibility of voter fraud or at least make a real attempt to wipe it out by bringing serious charges against anyone who thinks they can get away with it including anyone who works for the AEC or is currently a Member of Parliament.

  7. Phil Manley 28 July 2023 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    This is my concern also. That the AEC may slew the results in favour of the yes campaign.

  8. Sherns 28 July 2023 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    what can be done? what can we do? there seems to be no serious accountability, just distraction after distraction while the left continues to destroy everything good.

  9. Jim Twelves 3 August 2023 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Kurt, great honest journalism! Thnak you so much for blowing the whistle on criminal misconduct by the AEC. Do I trust them? Most certainly not, I have had my concerns for a few years now.

  10. Gerard Flood 4 August 2023 at 12:20 am - Reply

    You don’t know ‘the half of it’, of the AEC’s abuse of its statutory obligations.

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