“Bill Shorten's retirement tax is hopeless for us people living in South Australia and a lot of people, my friends included, we rely on our stocks and shares and the dividends we get from them,” the man says, identified only as Jim, a 72-year-old South Coast retiree.
At first blush, he appears to be an ordinary voter worried about Labor’s plan to end cash refunds for franked dividends. The concerned citizen stars in a campaign video released on Friday by Georgina Downer, the Liberal candidate in the seat of Mayo.
“Bill Shorten hasn't thought about the people who have worked hard ... and now we're not quite sure what's going to happen in the future,” the retiree laments. “That's one of the reasons why I'll be voting for the federal Liberal government at this election.”
Another reason might be that Jim — last name Bonner — is a devoted servant of the Liberal Party, having worked in myriad government and campaign roles over 40 years.
As the Coalition escalates its campaign against Labor’s dividend imputation policy and Ms Downer mounts her second attempt to take Mayo, she has been sprung using the long-time apparatchik in campaign material without disclosing his rich party pedigree.
Mr Bonner's history with the Liberal Party stretches back to his stint as a press secretary for prime minister Malcolm Fraser in the early 1980s. He went on to hold senior positions with the ABC before returning to Liberal ranks, eventually becoming South Australia state director of the party from 1998 to 2001.
His other roles have included press secretary for South Australian premier Dean Brown and federal defence minister Ian McLachlan in the 1990s, media liaison for multiple federal Coalition election campaigns and, recently, as a staffer for Liberal cabinet minister Simon Birmingham.
Ms Downer, a lawyer and former diplomat, is seeking to take the seat once held by her father Alexander. It is currently held by Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who beat back Ms Downer's first challenge at a byelection in July last year.
In the campaign video posted on Facebook, Mr Bonner is simply an example of what Ms Downer says are "thousands of people in Mayo who will be affected by Bill Shorten's retiree tax".
Approached for comment on Saturday, Ms Downer said: "Jim is a retiree and a long-term resident of the South Coast. No matter who you are or what your political stripes, Labor's retiree tax will slug around 900,000 Australians on average $2200 a year as well as 50,000 pensioners."
Mr Bonner could not be reached for comment in time for deadline.
If elected, Labor plans to end cash refunds that people with no taxable income receive from the government for franking credits on shares. The refund was introduced by the Howard government and removing it would boost federal budget coffers by $5 billion a year.
The Coalition has stepped up its attacks on the Labor proposal, warning it will affect self-funded retirees across the country.
It was recently revealed that one lobby group, masquerading as a grassroots organisation campaigning against the policy, is actually a network of professional lobbyists involved with the Liberal Party.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson has also faced criticism following reports he collaborated with a multibillion- dollar fund manager on a campaign against Labor's policy, failed to declare his investments in funds run by the firm to hearings of a parliamentary committee he chairs, and used the taxpayer-funded inquiry to help spruik Liberal fundraisers.