A conservative right-wing lobby group has been warned over political advertising depicting Chinese leader Xi Jinping as voting for Labor.
The depiction, which appears on the side of a truck, has been seen around the streets of Canberra over the past fortnight and linked to conservative group Advance Australia.
The Australian Electoral Commission said it was looking into the ad after critics questioned whether it was in breach of electoral laws on social media.
The election body said it did not have powers to determine the truthfulness of political advertising, and only focused on the inclusion of information that indicated who had authorised the message.
A spokesperson said it would issue a warning to the group over its use of a tick on the ballot paper instead of numbers, concerned it could encourage informal votes being cast.
"Signage displaying a tick vote could lead an elector to cast an informal vote so may be misleading or deceptive," the spokesperson said.
"During an election period, such material could constitute a breach of the Electoral Act. As such, we are providing Advance Australia with a warning regarding the signage."
Mining magnate Clive Palmer greatly outspent the major political parties in the 2019 federal election but failed to win a single seat, picking up 3.4 per cent of the vote.
Dr Sheppard said, however, ads like the Mr Jinping depiction could influence elections in less direct ways, prompting voters to think about certain themes.
The ads could get electorates thinking about national security, which is a "constant vote winner" for the Liberal Party, she said.
"The Liberal Party, and its supporters, do this in the same way that the Labor Party wants us thinking about health care and education," she said.
"This vague threat of foreign interference can sometimes just be a way of getting voters to think about national security.
"So we have to be careful how we interpret this debate because we can be playing into the hands of one side of politics or the other."
It follows warnings from national security heads over the danger of suggesting either major party is tied to foreign countries.
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Mike Burgess said it was "not helpful" that politicians were using national security intelligence to point fingers at either side.
He maintained the domestic spy agency was "proudly apolitical".
"The foreign interference is against all members of parliament, so it doesn't go after one particular party or the other," he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison used question time last month to label Labor deputy leader Richard Marles a "Manchurian candidate" before later withdrawing the comment.
Days earlier, Defence Minister Peter Dutton alleged the Chinese Communist Party had "picked" Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese as their preferred prime minister.
Advance Australia was approached for a response but it did not respond to The Canberra Times.
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