Liberal Senator Zed Seselja has denied any links to the murky right-wing group lining Canberra roads with corflutes suggesting his Independent Senate rival David Pocock is a closet Green.
He has, however, called on the former Wallaby captain noted for his climate activism to explain his differences with the Greens.
Mr Pocock said the corflutes depicting him unbuttoning his shirt to reveal a Greens t-shirt was part of a smear campaign by Advance Australia, where former right-wing Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne is a director.
He had complained to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) but it ruled the signs were allowable under the rules.
Mr Pocock said the signs misrepresented him and he laid out his policy differences with the Greens.
Senator Seselja said what third party groups did was up to them.
“I know Vicki Dunne but I’ve had no discussions with her on this,” he said.
Senator Seselja said it was not unreasonable that Mr Pocock should be compared to the Greens given he had illegally chained himself to a bulldozer to stop a development.
“So he obviously has a number of views that are closely aligned to the Greens party,” he said.
“It’s up to him to explain the differences between him and the Greens party.”
Senator Seselja said that Mr Pocock should take up his concerns with Advance Australia rather than blame the Liberal party but rounded on him and Independent Kim Rubenstein for taking “significant money” from the Climate 200 group, which had doctored headlines to attack him.
The AEC said the sign only suggested Mr Pocock had a link or similarities with the Greens rather than attempting to confuse people into believing that party actually endorses him.
“This would mean it is not captured under s329 of the Electoral Act but rather something for voters to stop and consider. Our Stop and Consider campaign is reminding voters of their role in this regard,” a spokesperson said.
“That being said, a candidate themselves can seek an injunction or refer to the AFP what they believe to be a crime under the Electoral Act.”
Mr Pocock said the AEC’s decision was disappointing, especially given the number of voters who had contacted his campaign genuinely confused and misled by these advertisements.
He said it showed the need for federal truth in political advertising laws, something he had been calling for for a number of years.
“Canberrans want greater integrity, not more scare campaigns,” Mr Pocock said.
“I am running as an Independent in order to better represent all Canberrans right across the political spectrum, not to silence one part of the community or another.”
Mr Pocock said climate was not the wedge issue Senator Seselja and Advance Australia want it to be.
“My position is aligned with the majority of Australians and Canberrans who want to see pragmatic action that brings down emissions while cutting household bills,” he said.
Mr Pocock said he supported a strong defence budget and shared concerns about the Solomons’ new security agreement with China.
He did not support the Greens’ proposal for more than $500 billion in new taxes and differed from them in his support of Voice, Treaty and Truth per the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as First Nations peoples have asked.
Labor Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh said Senator Seselja was a man under pressure whose backers were resorting to dirty tricks.
“These signs should be taken down. They have no place in a civilised democracy,” Dr Leigh said. “He should tell these lobbyists to take down these signs.”
The Greens, whose corflutes are restricted to private residences, have again called for roadside election signs to be banned, singling out the ‘dishonest’ corflutes from Advance Australia.
Candidate for Canberra Tim Hollo said it was past time to get rid of annoying electoral signs.
“People wouldn’t put these dishonest attack ads in their own front yards – it’s only because they’re anonymously put up on the streets that this type of misleading campaigning continues,” he said.