Labor refuses NDIS demand to remove logo from campaign material

The federal agency that runs the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has demanded Labor stop using the program logo on a campaign flyer and material that criticises the Morrison government over its management of the program.

The Labor advertisement.

But Labor has pushed back, arguing it has the right to use the logo because it is not trademarked and the party is not attempting to deceive voters into thinking the disability agency co-authored campaign material.

Lawyers for the party have rejected the National Disability Insurance Agency’s request and declared the leak of the agency’s cease and desist correspondence may “undermine public confidence in the integrity and independence” of the agency.

The legal brawl emerged as the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) referred a Liberal Party candidate to federal police after he admitted to The Age and Herald he did not live where he is enrolled to vote.

The NDIS logo was included on a flyer posted on social media by Bill Brindle, the candidate for the outer-eastern suburb seat of Casey, which Labor believes it has an outside chance of winning after the retirement of Liberal MP Tony Smith.

The purple NDIS logo is printed on the bottom left-hand corner of a pamphlet headlined: “Bill Brindle and Labor. Protecting the NDIS.” Labor’s logo appears in the opposite corner. The pamphlet is authorised by the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese (left) and Labor’s spokesman on the NDIS, Bill Shorten, in Perth last Saturday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

A letter sent by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on Tuesday and obtained by The Age and Herald, demands Labor “immediately cease and permanently refrain from any and all use of the NDIS Brand” and to commit to not “at any time in the future, engage in conduct which falsely represents or suggests an association between the Australian Labor Party and the NDIA”.

In response, lawyers from Holding Redlich, acting for Labor, wrote to the agency that the logo was not trademarked or used commercially, so there was no infringement. “[Victorian branch secretary Chris Ford] will not provide you with the undertaking sought,” the reply, sent on Thursday, said.

The law firm also wrote that it was “deeply concerning” that the agency would leak correspondence to the media.

The government’s handling of the $30 billion insurance scheme is a key election issue and one of Labor’s core points of policy difference from the Coalition. The opposition has promised a root-and-branch review of the NDIS, which was one of the previous Labor government’s major reforms but which it now says is failing its clients.

Coalition minister Jane Hume says the NDIS is not a “political football”.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Led by disability services spokesman Bill Shorten, Labor has accused the government of wasting money paying private consulting firms to make decisions on service plans for disabled people as some vulnerable people are denied help.

The Coalition’s campaign spokeswoman, Senator Jane Hume, said Labor’s refusal to agree to the agency’s request to remove the branding was “contemptible”.

“The NDIS is not a political football. It is a vital service provider for some of our most vulnerable. Playing these sorts of games is despicable, and Labor should stop immediately,” she said.

An NDIA spokeswoman said it was inappropriate for a political party to use the NDIS logo – “particularly alongside a political party logo” – and monitoring the trademarked logo was a requirement under the Trade Marks Act. There is no evidence of Labor candidates other than Brindle using the NDIS logo.

“This is to ensure the NDIS is not seen to be aligned with any political organisation – which is especially important whilst managing caretaker obligations once a general federal election has been called,” the spokeswoman said.

The Liberal Party holds the seat of Casey by 4.6 per cent, but the retirement of Smith, a popular member and former speaker of the House of Representatives, has given Labor hope it can win.

Robbie Beaton.

Meanwhile, Robbie Beaton, the Liberal Party candidate for the Labor-held seat of Isaacs was on Friday referred to federal police over potential election fraud.

Beaton listed his voting address as a pub in Aspendale, which is in the south-eastern suburban seat. He owned the pub until last year and claimed he used to spend some nights in a bedroom there.

After initially claiming he still lived in the pub, he later explained he had not spent a night there since October and lives 20 kilometres away in Camberwell.

Labor this week asked the AEC to investigate Beaton’s nomination. On Friday, the AEC said it was “[concerned] as to whether the information provided by him regarding his residential address on these forms is false” and the matter had been sent to the Australian Federal Police.

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