POLITICS

Brisbane Labor Candidate Pat O'Neill Ordered To Take Down Billboards By Defence Force

O'Neill resigned from the army 10 days ago.

23/05/2016 9:40 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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The Australian Defence Force has called for O'Neill to remove billboards.

Labor candidate for Brisbane Pat O'Neill has ignored demands from the Australian Defence Force to take down billboards featuring the ex-serviceman in uniform.

The campaign advertisement, which is also published on O'Neill's Twitter account, features the statement "Serving. Our community. Our nation."

The billboards have only been up for a few days across the electorate, but the Department of Defence has told the Labor candidate to stop using the Australian Army for his political gain; arguing the advertisements break Defence Force protocol.

"ADF members are therefore not permitted to participate in any political activity in uniform, unless they are pre-approved to do so by the appropriate authority," a Defence spokesperson told The Courier Mail.

"Mr O'Neill did not seek Defence endorsement for his billboards or advertising. Defence has requested that Mr O'Neill's imagery featuring the Australian Army uniform is removed.''

O'Neill, who served two deployments in Iraq, told The Huffington Post Australia he will not be removing the advertisements as his career in the army is part of his background.

"I joined the army when I was 17 and served for 18 years. Every day I went to work -- up until 10 days ago -- I put on a uniform," O'Neill told HuffPost Australia.

"I think people want to know who their candidates are, what they've done and what they stand for and my 18 years' service in the army is really important to who I am."

The loophole the former Army major has against the complaint is the fact he is no longer serving in the army. An MP cannot serve in another public service role once elected, which is a long-standing condition.

An Australian Electoral Commission spokesperson told The Huffington Post Australia there are rules to prohibit candidates misleading voters in political advertisements with the major guidelines around authorisation of the advertisement from a political party.

However it is not responsible for handling complaints of "allegedly untrue statements". The spokesperson confirmed the AEC will not be involved in this isolated complaint from the Australian Defence Force.

The Australian Electoral Commission website states:

"Although the AEC has no role in regulating the political content of electoral advertising, the AEC is responsible for ensuring, as far as possible, that electoral advertising does not mislead or deceive voters about the way in which they must cast their vote."

But the Labor candidate isn't the first to reflect on public service during his political career, with many politicians dabbling in volunteer work and promoting their former time in service.

Greens candidate for Grayndler Jim Casey has bolstered his career as a firefighter into politics, with the almost decade-long career mentioned on his website multiple times.

In May Casey tweeted a photo of himself in uniform reading The Daily Telegraph -- which was later deleted -- when it featured the front page "Save Our Albo" who is running against Casey to hold his seat in Grayndler.

Twitter

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also spruiked his role as former deputy captain in the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade. During his time in politics the Member for Warringah didn't shy away from his budgie smugglers and involvement with Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club either, making the odd beach patrol.

And Labor politician Mike Kelly who first served in the Australian Army famously wore a suit resembling fatigues when it was announced he would run for parliament. Kelly, who lost his seat in 2013, is fighting to claw back the Eden-Monaro electorate in New South Wales.

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