Meet Daniel. He’s 19, a university student and used to think politicians were only in it for themselves. Then he met the deputy Victorian Liberal leader, David Southwick. That’s who he’ll be voting for, Daniel tells the camera, in a video ad circulating on social media.
What Daniel – or anyone else – fails to mention is that he has a part-time job working for none other than Southwick himself.
The video, which was posted on social media on Monday, is being used as a paid ad on Facebook and Instagram to encourage young voters in the hyper-marginal seat of Caulfield to vote for Southwick.
“Hi, my name is Daniel,” he says in the video. “I’m 19 years old and I’m a student at Monash Uni. When I was growing up, I thought that politicians were these people who were only in it for themselves: they say one thing, then do something else. And then I met David.
“David is my local MP and every time I go for a coffee he’s always there, talking to locals, talking to people, seeing what matters to us. I think that’s what I really want from an MP – someone who listens to young people and who listens to locals. That’s why I’m voting for David at this election.”
There is no mention in the video that Daniel also works part-time for Southwick.
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Southwick’s campaign manager has also appeared in another campaign video, in which “Andy” only describes himself as a 22-year-old “former independent supporter”.
A copy of the video, which was seen by Guardian Australia early on Wednesday before it was published, did not disclose Andy Gordon’s role on Southwick’s team.
But four hours after Guardian Australia asked why the role had not been disclosed in the unpublished video, it was posted to social media – but with a caption identifying him as Southwick’s campaign manager.
“I’m Andy and I’m 22,” Gordon says in the video.
“Like a lot of young people, I can deeply about climate change and integrity. I never thought I’d be voting for the Liberals on those two issues. But here I am and I’m going vote Liberal this November. And the reason for that is I met David, my local MP.
“His plan is to legislate a 50% emissions reduction target by 2030. Essentially, taking the politics out of climate change. Climate change shouldn’t be a political issue, it should be a race to how we can get there.”
Gordon also cites the Liberal’s commitment to invest an additional $10m each year in the state’s integrity agencies: “He’s man of his word. He’s not the classic politician, he’s just an everyday guy.
“This election I’m voting for David because he’s a man who cares about us. He’s our community candidate.”
Gordon has been affiliated with the Liberal party since at least 2018, though Guardian Australia understands he worked on the campaign of an independent candidate at the 2016 local council elections.
Southwick and the Liberal party did not wish to comment on the videos.
While Southwick now holds the seat of Caulfiled, the redrawing of boundaries after the 2018 poll gives Labor’s candidate, Lior Harel, a lead of 0.2% – or a couple of hundred votes – heading into the 26 November election.
Southwick is also fending off a challenge from “teal” independent candidate, Nomi Kaltmann, who has been endorsed by Simon Holmes à Court’s Climate 200 outfit.
The deputy Liberal leader has described himself as a moderate, who has worked from within the party to push for bolder climate crisis and environment policies and to increase female and youth participation.
Southwick is running a hyper-local campaign, with his election material featuring commitments to rebuild the Caulfield hospital, improve local shopping strips, create more green space and introduce mandatory height limits for new developments. Some of the material does not mention he is representing the Liberal party.