A legal challenge against the election of two sitting federal Coalition MPs due to Chinese language signage has been dismissed, but a former Liberal party director could still face action.
The cases against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Victorian Liberal MP Gladys Liu were dismissed in the Court of Disputed Returns on Tuesday.
However, former Liberal party director Simon Frost must show reasons why the court shouldn’t refer him to the High Court for breaches of electoral rules.
Josh Frydenberg and Gladys Liu’s election wins in May are being challenged over purple and white Chinese language signs telling voters in Kooyong and Chisholm the “correct” way to vote is to put the Liberal Party first.
Their results were challenged by failed Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates and climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett, who have argued the corflutes were likely to mislead or deceive voters.
They argued in a three-day trial last month that the Liberal Party signage was designed to mirror the Australian Electoral Commission’s signage
The challengers’ lawyer, Lisa De Ferrari, had acknowledged voiding the MPs’ election was a “drastic measure” but said the signs were a “public wrong of some great importance”.
Former Victorian Liberal Party director Simon Frost was quizzed during the trial and admitted under questioning by Ms De Ferrari that the signs were intended to give the impression it was an AEC corflute.
But he said the signs, written in both simplified and traditional Chinese script, were different to the translation that had been approved by the party.
“The translation was not as I had given,” he said.
Disappointing result especially in Chisholm. Seems the court concluded that not enough people saw the signs so would not support a bi-election they did confirm the LNP conduct was illegal, misleading and deceptive.
— Oliver Yates (@_Oliver_Yates) December 24, 2019
Lawyers for the electoral commission said the idea that voters could be so “gullible and naive” to believe Australia was a one-party state was “an outlandish proposition”.
He added that the proportion of voters in Kooyong and Chisholm who spoke only Mandarin or Cantonese was too small to have affected the election outcome.
Ms Liu beat her Labor challenger by about 1000 votes while Mr Frydenberg was re-elected with a 5.7 per cent margin.
Justice Andrew Greenwood, one of three hearing the case, questioned how they could overturn Mr Frydenberg’s election with that margin.
He said even if Chinese-speakers in Kooyong changed their vote, Mr Frydenberg would still have won by 4329 votes.