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High Court challenge over “deceptive” election signs

An independent candidate who ran against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the federal election will petition the High Court over what he calls "misleading and deceptive" Chinese language election signage supporting the Liberal Party.

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The signs - printed in the distinctive purple and white colours of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) - instructed voters in the Melbourne inner east seat of Kooyong that the correct way to vote was to put a “1” next to the Liberal candidate, Frydenberg.

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  Oliver Yates, Independent

Independent candidate Oliver Yates, a former Liberal Party member and former CEO of Australia’s $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, plans to officially petition the High Court to examine the outcome in Kooyong.

The challenge will be based on what he calls “misleading campaign advertising” from the Liberal Party, which he says tried to mimic the colour of official AEC posters.

The Labor Party also complained about the signs and had earlier threatened to challenge the result in the neighbouring seat of Chisholm, based on similar Chinese-language campaign material. 

The AEC ruled that the signs did not breach electoral laws and said it could not stop others from using the colour purple. 

“They were clearly designed to deceive voters in how to mark their ballot papers or in other words, how to cast their votes,” Yates told The Guardian. “If these signs and the people that approved them are not considered misleading and deceptive, then basically there is no limit on deceptive and misleading conduct at all.”

He said he would lodge a High Court challenge before the 40-day deadline after the return of official election writs, which expires on 31 July.

Yates won 9.8% of the primary vote in Kooyong;  Frydenberg won the seat after receiving 49% of first preferences.