Australian Conservatives party pays to run Liberal ads from its Facebook page | Australia news
The Victorian branch of the Australian Conservatives party has been paying to run Liberal party ads from its Facebook page.
Guardian Australia has identified at least four ads run on Facebook by the Australian Conservatives which use graphics or videos from Liberal party ads, and in two cases link directly to a Liberal party website or YouTube channel.
The Australian Conservatives party was founded by the former South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi as a group in 2016, and then as a political party in 2017.
The most recent example of such an ad is titled “The Bill Australia can’t afford” and uses a Liberal-produced graphic attacking Labor on taxes and the economy, and links directly to a campaign website authorised by the Liberal party. The ad started running on 13 May.
The image and link content of the ad is identical to a Liberal party ad that was first run on 7 May.
Another ad pushed out by the Australian Conservatives page uses a YouTube video produced by the Liberal party which depicts Bill Shorten as Pinocchio and links to the official Liberal party YouTube channel. The video was posted on 29 April by the Liberal party, and then used by the Australian Conservatives from 11 May.
Kevin Bailey, the lead Senate candidate for the Victorian branch of the Australian Conservatives, said the posts had been inadvertently boosted – a term for when a Facebook post is turned into an ad – and the content would be removed.
“Over the last two weeks we’re sharing different articles or different things that come up on the campaign trail,” he said. “And so I’ve asked for most posts to be boosted, and didn’t realise they were linking to other sites.”
Bailey said they shared content when it was of interest, and said he was not aware of the sources in all cases.
“It’s not intentional for us, I’m interested in holding the Liberal party to account as well as the Labor party and the Greens,” he said.
Guardian Australia’s investigation into Facebook advertising has previously identified anonymous pages running Liberal ads. One has since added the required authorisation of a name and suburb and the other has been removed. It also identified a page authorised by Clive Palmer’s party which ran a Liberal party ad.
Prof Robert Crawford, who researches the advertising industry at RMIT University, said it was unusual for a political party to run ads from another party.
“In terms of one party using another party’s advertising materials, this is highly abnormal,” he said.
“Most parties prefer to create their own messages – after all, that’s why they were established as separate entities. However, the nature of change in the digital platforms has meant that commentary can quickly morph into advertising.”
The Australian Electoral Commission said there was nothing in the Electoral Act to prevent one party running an ad on behalf of another.
“If a political party is concerned about another party infringing its copyright or misrepresenting its position, the political party would need to consider options available under other legislation in which the AEC has no role,” a spokesperson said.
The ads were detected by Guardian Australia’s project to track political advertising on Facebook, and by a reader contribution through our political advertising crowdsourcing project.