A Liberal candidate's social media post ridiculing a Labor promise to provide free meals to underprivileged school children has been labelled "disgusting" by the ACT's education minister.
Liberal MLA Candice Burch took to Facebook on Friday morning to criticise Labor's plan to trial free breakfast and lunch at five public schools if re-elected on October 17.
"You can't make this stuff up!" Ms Burch's post read.
"Our school reading and mathematics results are going backwards, and yet instead of figuring out how to give our kids a better education, ACT Labor want to give free lunch."
Liberal candidate for Ginninderra Ignatius Rozario commented below Ms Burch's post, writing "children go to school to learn not for a free lunch".
Asked to respond to Ms Burch's comment, ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said it was "disgusting".
"All the research showed that when a young person has a full stomach their education will improve," Ms Berry said.
"Those kinds of comments show that they [the Liberals] just simply don't care, they simply don't care about people in our community who are doing it tough, who need a hand up, without the stigmatisation placed on it."
Ms Burch's Facebook post sparked a strong negative reaction, with many respondents questioning why she would oppose a policy to ensure school children wouldn't go without food.
The Liberals' transport spokeswoman added a comment to her post amid the backlash, which said "of course we don't want kids to go hungry".
She added the best way to ensure children were fed was to lower the cost of living, which the Liberals have promised to achieve by freezing rates, reducing car registration fees and increasing the number of bulk-billing GPs.
Mr Rozario edited his original comment three times in the space of 20 minutes, finally settling on a post which read: "We need to improve our education system. Free lunch is not going to fix the problem. Children go to school to learn not for a free lunch. However, I agree free foods[sic] for those who need it."
Opposition leader Alistair Coe refused to be drawn on his colleagues' comments on Friday. Instead, he talked up the Liberals' plan to establish a poverty commission, which would be chaired by former Labor chief minister and vocal Barr government critic Jon Stanhope.
Asked if he was disappointed his colleagues had ridiculed a policy aimed at supporting families in poverty, Mr Coe said: "What's very disappointing is that we have 30,000 people in the ACT living in poverty after 19 years of Labor - that is real."