Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has hinted Labor could stop sending party operatives overseas in a taxpayer-funded program after what he called "stupid" behaviour by Australians working on a US presidential campaign.
On Sunday, Fairfax Media reported Labor volunteers had been caught on hidden cameras bragging about using Australian taxpayer funds to work Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign in New Hampshire. The video showed some of the group talking about and attempting to steal Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaign signs.
The undercover video was posted online by the conservative activist group Project Veritas Action. Australian National University Labor Club president and student union board member Ben Kremer is identified in the video trying to remove campaign signs for Mr Trump's campaign, acknowledging in the secret recording that the tactics were not legal.
Mr Kremer is seen saying volunteers were instructed not to post information about their work on social media, because it could cause the Coalition government to cancel the program. He was contacted for comment.
Other Australians, including Western Australia Young Labor president Rebecca Doyle, are recorded explaining they received taxpayer funds for flights, accommodation and daily expenses while organising for Mr Sanders' presidential campaign, a possible breach of US election law where foreign nationals can only contribute to campaigns in an unpaid capacity.
The group received funding from Labor through the federal government's Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program.
The program, established by the Howard government in 2005, provides funds to the Liberal Party, Labor and the Greens to send party officials overseas to "strengthen democracy internationally". Administered by the Department of Finance, the Abbott government moved to scrap the program in 2014.
In 2012, $3 million was allocated over three years to the Liberal and Labor parties and $600,000 to the Greens.
Previous funding agreements required at least 50 per cent of the money be used for the promotion of democracy in developing countries. The rest could be used for international activities in developed countries.
Labor has previously used the program to send party members to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and to work with left-wing parties in the US, Britain, Europe and New Zealand. In 2013, it was revealed that a senior ALP official was having his wages subsidised through the program.
Accountability in the program was criticised by a federal government audit in 2009.
The Greens have used funds in the Asia-Pacific region and to send staffer to join the campaign of US President Barack Obama in 2008.
The Liberals have used funds to travel to Timor, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, as well as to work with the British and Canadian Conservative parties and the Republicans in the US.
Mr Shorten said the behaviour shown in the video was unacceptable for Labor.
"The behaviour which has been reported is completely unacceptable," he said. "Stupidity never paints anyone in a good light."
Mr Shorten questioned the value of the taxpayer-funded grants and said Labor may pull out of the program.
"I'm not convinced of the value of this program of sending people overseas, full stop," he said.
Labor national secretary George Wright told Fairfax Media he had launched an investigation to confirm the program complied with US election laws. He also criticised the behaviour as unacceptable.
Project Veritas Action identifies itself as a journalism organisation but has previously been criticised for selective editing and has faced lawsuits for some of its content.
Other activist groups, including right-wing New Hampshire anti-tax and citizens' groups, have pledged to track the Australians' activities.