ACT Greens want truth in political advertising laws before 2020 election

Lachlan Roberts 27 September 2019 55
political advertising laws

The Canberra Liberals parked this van around the ACT before this year’s federal election. Photos: File.

The ACT Greens want the ACT to become the second jurisdiction in Australia to have truth in political advertising laws before 2020 ACT election campaigns begin on 1 January.

ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur is proposing to amend the Electoral Act to include provisions that make it illegal to “disseminate political material or advertising that is factually incorrect” during the upcoming election campaign.

Since the 1980s, South Australia has been the only jurisdiction in Australia with truth in political advertising laws. The laws allow local constituents to make a complaint about disseminated political material to the SA Electoral Commission.

The commission can decide whether the offending material should be removed and whether a retraction should be published. The maximum penalty for materially inaccurate and misleading advertising is $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for a body corporate but offences are rarely prosecuted.

The SA Electoral Commission has received complaints about inaccurate and misleading advertising in each of the last six elections and requested at least one withdrawal or retraction each time.

Under current ACT and federal electoral legislation, ‘deceptive conduct’ is prohibited when voters cast their vote, with fraudulent how-to-vote cards banned from polling booths. However, the ACT Greens would like to see laws expanded to the entire election campaign, which is set to begin on 1 January.

Caroline Le Couteur said Canberrans should be able to have greater trust in their democracy.

Ms Le Couteur said adopting truth in political advertising laws would only cover authorised political advertising where matters of fact were in dispute.

“Our proposal will stop political parties and candidates outright lying regarding matters of fact during election campaigns,” Ms Le Couteur said. “Voters should be able to go to the polls knowing exactly who and what they’re voting for.

“At the last federal election, the Coalition claimed that Labor was planning to introduce a death tax, which they were not. More recently and locally the Canberra Liberals have made erroneous claims about the ACT Government’s Climate Strategy.

“Should these changes to the Electoral Act be adopted by the Assembly, such claims would not be allowed to be made in endorsed political advertising during the election period.”

The ACT Greens proposed truth in political advertising laws after the 2016 Election but the ACT Electoral Commission said that such laws are difficult to enforce and could be “exploited”. Ms Le Couteur admitted that it was unlikely that the Electoral Commission will agree to their current proposal.

“I am not expecting the ACT Electoral Commission to be hugely in favour of this,” Ms Le Couteur said. “It is very unlikely they will support it but we need to do everything we can to increase the trust in our Government.”

The Australian Institute said Australians overwhelmingly support the introduction of truth in political advertising laws after their 2019 survey found that 84 per cent of respondents were in favour of such legislation.

Support was similar across all major parties, with 85 per cent of Coalition voters, 84 per cent of Labor voters and 87 per cent of Greens voters all supporting the legislation.

Most respondents supported fines (62 per cent) and forcing publications to retract claims (60 per cent) as penalties to factually incorrect political advertising, while 42 per cent supported criminal charges.

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55 Responses to ACT Greens want truth in political advertising laws before 2020 election
Leigh Atkinson Leigh Atkinson 5:11 pm 29 Sep 19

Truth and Greens....brhahaaaa🤣

Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:12 pm 29 Sep 19

“….was man made climate change…”?

Surely you mean “person made” climate change.

Lori Charlton Lori Charlton 11:36 am 29 Sep 19

Good luck with that!

John Taylor John Taylor 9:11 am 29 Sep 19

And all those things are GST free....right. Memo to those purveying this sort of thing.

Suzanne Tunks Suzanne Tunks 12:06 am 29 Sep 19

Sounds like a good idea. So many lies filled our roadsides last time. Actually I think all of the advertising should be banned all together!

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:13 pm 28 Sep 19

“The your retirement on the bottom of that list and now the libs are going after retirees.The irony”

I have no problem with that. Superannuated retirees are gaming the system to get health-care cards and other benefits which should be the exclusive right of totally welfare dependent pensioners. Along with the rorting of the NDIS and disability assisted pensions Australia will go broke.

James Daniels James Daniels 9:52 pm 28 Sep 19

"The Coalition said Labor was going to introduce a death tax" really? I don't remember that. I remember seeing the truck pictured above. When someone says they'e going to tickle you to death, it doesn't mean they're going to literally keep tickling until you die. In that vein I took the claims on the above advertising to mean that the Liberals were saying Labor would increase the tax burden if they won government, not that a specific death tax would be introduced. Seeing that Labor was promising to increase (or retain more) revenue through the tax system it seemed fair enough to me. The advertising on the truck is certainly not in the same league as Mediscare in 2016 so I think Ms Le Couteur needs to take the party-political blinkers off if she wants to credibly talk on this issue.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:06 pm 28 Sep 19

“Voters should be able to go to the polls knowing exactly who and what they’re voting for.”

I am reminded of this when I see the current spruiking for the planned new hospital on the Woden campus, which is “due for completion in 2024” (that’s apparently the current guesstimate).

In the 2016 ACT election campaign, there were ACT Labor roadside signs telling voters that “We can have the tram and a new hospital”. Perhaps there was fine print on those signs which said “but not until the time of the election after next”.

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 6:27 pm 28 Sep 19

Not just ACT elections. Should be introduced Australia wide. The Libs wouldn’t have anything to say then as they have no policies!

Daniel Fernandez Daniel Fernandez 3:22 pm 28 Sep 19

You mean snipping a couple of words from a story and spraying them out in a different context is distorting the facts??!!

There might be a few billion people that could use that little morsel of info!!

Ash Morgan Ash Morgan 2:53 pm 28 Sep 19

That’s rich coming from the Greens. The fact is that the majority of politicians from all sides go out of their way to mask the truth. The Greens are no better

    Calvin Chan Calvin Chan 4:06 pm 28 Sep 19

    The Greens make a move to put things right and all you want to do is ridicule them and point out that they are no better than the others.

    Good luck finding a political party who is not disqualified according to your criteria, from trying to fix things up.

    No wonder nothing ever changes.

Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 2:36 pm 28 Sep 19

Wow! Put a nick in the post!

Craig Schumacher Craig Schumacher 2:17 pm 28 Sep 19

The Greens stand to lose a lot if such a law is in effect.

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 2:23 pm 30 Sep 19

    Craig Schumacher you may be correct.

    I tend to consider those willing to damage themselves for the greater good as the ones on the moral high ground.

    Craig Schumacher Craig Schumacher 2:27 pm 30 Sep 19

    Mal Briggs If they were on the high moral ground in this matter, they wouldn't be in danger.

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 1:42 pm 28 Sep 19

Please do this.

James Gallagher James Gallagher 1:09 pm 28 Sep 19

After the fiasco of the last election and the obvious misinformation campaign by the Liberals, this would be very welcome.

    James Gallagher James Gallagher 6:27 pm 29 Sep 19

    Especially with that “Death Tax” rubbish.

Acton Acton 12:26 pm 28 Sep 19

A statement may be truth or opinion or a lie.

Is the following statement on the Greens website factually correct, a legitimate political comment, an opinion open to challenge, a deliberate distortion, hyperbole, or a fabricated lie?

“The fact is, we are facing an existential climate crisis that threatens human civilisation – and the major parties don’t have a plan to deal with it.”

If one thinks that Greens statement is not factually correct (or any LNP/ALP/etc statement), it could be challenged and the Greens fined under the proposed legislation because it will be illegal to “disseminate political material or advertising that is factually incorrect” during the upcoming election campaign.

Political party statements are not always ‘factually correct’ and who will arbitrate the standard to be reached, if not the electorate.?

The point is that the proposed legislation will be misused to stifle political debate and intimidate opponents. It is anti-democratic and should be rejected.

Tony Jim Tony Jim 12:17 pm 28 Sep 19

So for argument sake, if say the Greens said there was man made climate change, and another party said “yes there is climate change, but it’s not man made” would someone be charged for making an illegal statement?

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 2:25 pm 30 Sep 19

    Anthony Crocker like anything it would likely be considered on the merit of the supporting evidence.

    In the case you've presented I'd put my money on the Greens having the winning hand.

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 12:16 pm 28 Sep 19

That'd keep the Libs quiet. Lies are all they have.

Mac John Mac John 12:08 pm 28 Sep 19

This we should have: I will not vote for any one that opposes this legislation. You are all on notice.

Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 11:20 am 28 Sep 19

Perhaps they should make it that political parties can only advertise what they will do, not what they think their opponents will do.

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