Coalition attempts to win back one of Queensland’s most marginal seats have been dealt a major blow after a Liberal National Party candidate was referred to the Australian Federal Police.
Contesting the north Brisbane seat of Lilley, Vivian Lobo will be investigated for allegedly making false claims to the Australian Electoral Commission about his current residential address.
The AEC said on Sunday “there is concern as to whether the information provided by him regarding his residential address on [his enrolment and candidate nomination] forms is false”.
It comes after The Australian newspaper revealed on Friday the Everton Park address where Mr Lobo claims he lives is “in fact an abandoned, unfurnished and dilapidated house” that neighbours say has been sitting empty for at least a year.
The newspaper said Mr Lobo was instead living in the upmarket suburb of Windsor in the neighbouring electorate of Brisbane, held by Liberal MP Trevor Evans.
Mr Lobo said he will co-operate with the AEC’s investigation.
“I enrolled in the electorate as I had signed a lease in Everton Park with the intention to move in straight away,” Mr Lobo said.
“However, due to my campaign commitments and difficulty with getting tradespeople to the home, I was delayed moving in.”
The Coalition campaign has not said whether it will continue supporting Mr Lobo in Lilley.
He is the second Coalition candidate to be referred to the AFP for investigation in recent days amid widespread voter concerns about corruption in politics.
Isaacs candidate Robbie Beaton was referred on Thursday after he told a newspaper he did not live at the Melbourne property where he was enrolled.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs to explain whether Mr Lobo will be stood down during the investigation, Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt said on Sunday.
“This is an extremely serious allegation to emerge in relation to a candidate in the middle of an election campaign,” he said.
Not standing Mr Lobo down would be another blow to a government that has failed to deliver on a federal anti-corruption commission it promised at the last election, he added.
“This government has a terrible record when it comes to integrity,” Mr Watt said.
“They’ve had rort after rort … and now this is the second candidate across the country who has been referred for police investigation in the middle of an election campaign.”
Labor’s Anika Wells currently holds the seat of Lilley on a 0.6 per cent margin after a swing of more than 5 per cent to the LNP at the 2019 election.
Candidate nominations will remain as formally declared in April.
“Ballot papers have been printed and distributed across the country for early voting to begin on Monday and many postal voters have already received their postal voting packs,” the AEC said.
In a statement, the AFP said it does not comment on matters that may be subject to investigation.