The Morrison government has been accused of misleading Queensland voters in a seat set to benefit most from the controversial Adani coal mine with a billboard that appears to show Labor leader Bill Shorten participating in a campaign to stop it.
The tightly-cropped image, taken during Labor's national conference in November, captures the moment when a protester stormed the stage to derail Mr Shorten's opening address and shows the Opposition Leader grasping a red Stop Adani flag as he tries to remove it.
But, in the billboard - which places the photograph next to a quote in which Mr Shorten voiced his opposition to Adani's Carmichael project - there is no sign of the protester, who moments later would be hauled out of the venue by security.
Critics have condemned the billboard as a misuse of political advertising after Liberal National Senator for Queensland Matt Canavan posted a photograph of it on social media boasting that it had "just gone up in Rockhampton to remind everyone - including Bill - what he actually said".
"Labor just can't be trusted," Senator Canavan, who is federal Resources Minister, wrote.
The billboard is in the ultra-marginal electorate of Capricornia, currently held by Liberal National MP Michelle Landry, which would house the proposed mine.
It will be a key battleground at the federal election along with fellow North Queensland coal seats Dawson, Herbert and Flynn as jobs, energy and environment policy firm up as key concerns for voters heading into the May 18 federal election.
Some social media users objected to the billboard, questioning the source of the image and suggesting it may have been Photoshopped.
"That ad is worse than GetUp's. You need to apologise!" one Facebook user wrote.
Another said: "The LNP realise that they can't compete in an honest contest, and so they have resolved to lie, cheat and steal their way to an election win."
Others supported the advertisement, with one voter saying Senator Canavan was "just pointing out that Shorten lied about opposing Adani - which is true, there is video evidence of him saying he does not support it".
Another wrote that Labor "should be officially opposing Adani".
Political advertising is covered by electoral rules that make it illegal to mislead citizens about how to cast their votes, such as in how-to-vote cards.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority deals with complaints about the content of campaign advertising, which must not be misleading or deceptive.
Progressive lobby group GetUp was forced to pull a satirical campaign advertisement depicting Tony Abbott as a lifeguard ignoring pleas to help someone drowning after a barrage of criticism.
Mr Shorten, who has previous said he did not support the Adani mine, repeatedly refused to explicity rule out a review of the project's federal approval this week before firming up his position not to do so on Wednesday, saying: "We are not going to review Adani, full stop."
The issue has caused ructions within the Labor party and the unions that are bankrolling a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to install Mr Shorten as prime minister, with those in North Queensland campaigning for mining development in the Galilee basin.
The Queensland branch of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union is demanding that all candidates sign a pledge outlining their support for coal jobs, while more than 30 unions have endorsed strikes by school students demanding that the Adani mine be stopped.
Labor candidates campaigning in marginal seats in Queensland seats have expressed support for coal mining, while those in Sydney and Melbourne have opposed it.
Stop Adani campaigners have tallied almost 50 Labor branches and Labor-held councils across Victoria, NSW and Queensland that have passed motions in support of stopping Adani's coal mine, while 24 Labor MPs and candidates have publicly expressed concern about the project.
The Coalition campaign has been approached for comment.
- SMH/The Age