Labor Candidate Pat O'Neill Agrees To Remove Army Uniform Billboards

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie was sacked from the Army on Thursday for 'politicising' army career.

10/06/2016 11:28 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
ALP candidate Pat O'Neill originally dismissed ADF orders to remove billboards.

Brisbane's Labor candidate Pat O'Neill has agreed to remove campaign billboards where he is wearing Army uniform, following requests from the Australian Defence Force last month.

O'Neill originally dismissed demands from the ADF to remove the billboards in May but told The Huffington Post Australia the controversy has shifted public discourse away from policy issues he wants to focus on.

"When we originally put the billboards up, it was to let people know about my past career. I served in the Army from the age of 17, for 18 years," O'Neill told HuffPost Australia.

"The intent was never to cause offence to anybody. I left the army to talk about policy issues and I want to focus on those issues -- the investment in education, medicare and making sure we're looking at ways to create jobs in the future, so we're going to comply with the request to take down billboards."

On Thursday Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who is the candidate for the West Australian seat of Canning, was sacked from the Army Reserves for wearing army fatigues in campaign posters.

Military protocol bans ex-serviceman from using military uniforms in political advertisements.

Hastie is a former special forces soldier who served in Afghanistan. The backbencher had been moved to the Standby Reserves which is a wing for former active army members while he embarked on a political career.

O'Neill served with Hastie in Darwin and said "it's really sad what's happened".

"Even though we don't agree on a lot in politics, it's sad to see it happen to someone who spent the majority of their working life in the forces.

"I spoke to him personally yesterday and passed on support, but my decision to take down the billboards is about ensuring we focus on the policy issues."

The three billboards will be taken down on Saturday, which O'Neill will personally fund. The Labor candidate praised Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen's 10 year economic plan saying: "People are looking for a plan that goes beyond 3 year electorate policies."

Shorten is set to unveil a "savings package" on Friday afternoon after the plan outlines Labor will take the budget into bigger deficits than the Coalition over the next four years, but will balance the budget by 2021 -- the same year as the Coalition.

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