LNP candidate Ted O'Brien has been left red-faced after his office's distribution of a press release headed "Nambour population swamped by boat arrivals".
Mr O'Brien, who is opposing mining magnate Clive Palmer for the seat of Fairfax in the upcoming Federal Election, says he is embarrassed about the gaffe and will speak to his staff.
"I haven't got a copy of that," he said. "My staff would have sent that through."
Mr O'Brien said he wrote the press release, referencing "illegal immigrants" in Australia, but was unaware of and not responsible for the subject line.
"I'll give my office a ring - my word is what is in the media release," he said.
Nambour is more than 20 kilometres from the ocean. It has a creek running through it.
University of the Sunshine Coast political lecturer Donna Weeks said the wording "Nambour population swamped by boat arrivals" was reminiscent of Pauline Hanson's historic statement that Australia would be swamped by Asians.
"It sounds to me like it is poor error of judgement of the person responsible for sending out the email," she said.
"You do get volunteers and interns trying to make their mark and sometimes they're quite young and don't really think about the consequences. You get a catchy subject line, you want it to stand out."
In Mr O'Brien's press release, he said the arrival of five more "illegal" boats this week meant more than 20,000 people had "arrived illegally by boat" this financial year.
"That's more than the population of Nambour (17,300), Coolum (17,200) and Maroochydore (15,000)," he said.
Mr O'Brien said concerns about the number of boats "arriving illegally" in Australia was a common theme raised by Coast residents during his doorknocking activity over recent months.
"There have been a handful of common issues that pop up," he said.
"I have found there's a real lack of confidence at the moment in the current Federal Government, which is due to a host of reasons ranging from the economy, through to our migration program. It's nervousness on behalf of the public that Australia's lost control.
"I don't get the feeling at all that Australians are bigoted or racist, it is a genuine concern that we have lost control of our borders."
Barbara Brewster, who formed Buddies for Refugees on the Sunshine Coast, said aside from the unfortunate subject line, Mr O'Brien's comments were incorrect.
"How can a boat arrive in Nambour?" she said.
"Australia has signed the UN Refugee Convention - it's legal for people to seek asylum by any means.
"The use of the word illegally is an error."
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