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
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.

Alex Elliott Alex Elliott 11:09 am 28 Sep 19

I'd like to see it go further and have truth in government as well.

Brad Rogers Brad Rogers 11:07 am 28 Sep 19

Can we just ban all forms of political advertising?

M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 11:03 am 28 Sep 19

“At the last federal election, the Coalition claimed that Labor was planning to introduce a death tax, which they were not." I guess it was just a coincidence Labor's then shadow assistant treasurer, Andrew Leigh, in 2006 "Reimposing inheritance taxes would be an equitable and efficient tax reform, which would also create a strong incentive for the rich to reduce the size of their inheritance through donations. ": https://cpd.org.au/2006/03/bring-back-the-inheritance-tax/

    Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 11:31 am 28 Sep 19

    Martin Leonard 2006? That's stretching it a bit isn't it? How about those franking credits, how good are they?

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 11:46 am 28 Sep 19

    Angela M J Brown No I don't it's stretching it at all. And I also don't think that if a party intended introducing them, it wouldn't be raising that from opposition. As for franking credits, I have no objection to them. Nor do I have anything against SMSF retirees for that matter.

    Sarah Winterbottom Sarah Winterbottom 11:55 am 28 Sep 19

    Martin Leonard the LNP admitted on tv that the death tax was not a real thing

    https://www.facebook.com/abcqanda/posts/10156008451531831?comment_id=10156010795746831

    Norm Marshall Norm Marshall 12:00 pm 28 Sep 19

    Martin by that logic the Liberal Party was bringing back Work Choices in the last election. Which they clearly weren't.

    Fair go to the Greens on this one. It's actually a good idea to have accountability on claims during an election

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 12:00 pm 28 Sep 19

    Sarah Winterbottom Did you read what I just wrote? Incidentally the statement "Labor didn’t have that policy but there are people within the party who want that policy" is equivalent to saing "the death tax was not a real thing".

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 12:02 pm 28 Sep 19

    Norm Marshall I guess it's just a coincidence this Greens' push was in response to the LNP's win and not Labor's Mediscare campaign of 2016.

    Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 1:11 pm 28 Sep 19

    Norm Marshall they are bringing back workchoices MKII now though.

    Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 1:19 pm 28 Sep 19

    Martin Leonard that was no mediscare, it is now a reality. Co payments and full payments for many items means that Australians in the lower socioeconomic bracket do not get the tresting and treatment required as they cannot afford it. Systemic dismantling of universal healthcare so we can become like the US is cruel and inhuman to those on low to no incomes. we are not the US.

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 1:22 pm 28 Sep 19

    Angela M J Brown Mediscare's a reality, is it? That's news to me. I was at my doctor's surgery this Wednesday and my Medicare card worked just fine. Obviously they hadn't got the memo either.

    Chris Bennett Chris Bennett 7:47 pm 28 Sep 19

    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/turnbull-government-refuses-to-rule-out-return-of-death-duties-20151114-gkywn9.html

    Turnbull was still considering inheritance tax. It's been on the LNP agenda from time to time

David Brown David Brown 11:00 am 28 Sep 19

If they do it will be a wonderful election where we don’t hear from any politicians.

Stephen Matthews Stephen Matthews 10:56 am 28 Sep 19

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

Jason Preston Jason Preston 10:52 am 28 Sep 19

Truth in advertising:

Labor/greens want your kids to take drugs.....

Adam Tibballs Adam Tibballs 10:50 am 28 Sep 19

How about a bane on advertising anything but your own policies

Phil Andrews Phil Andrews 10:39 am 28 Sep 19

What an indictment on our electoral system that they even need to consider this. 😕

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:31 am 28 Sep 19

I don’t recall the Liberals claiming that Labor would introduce a death tax during the last Federal election but I can confirm that Labor dropped fraudulent facsimiles of MEDICARE cards in a lot of residential Tuggererong mailboxes claiming the Canberra Liberals were going to privatise privately run emergency departments that wouldn’t be able to treat actual emergencies.

Come to think of of it, that would be no worse than the publicly run ones we already have.

Dianna Nixon Dianna Nixon 10:21 am 28 Sep 19

This campaign was absolutely disgraceful and baseless. It shouldn't have been allowed.

    Ella Factor Ella Factor 10:41 am 28 Sep 19

    George Lemon the Liberals were in the process of outsourcing the back end of Medicare, which is a privatisation of government services - they backed down due to that campaign, did a big announcement about changing their plans - therefore it was real not a scare campaign, and thus doesn’t even begin to compare to the purposeful lies of the Liberals fake death tax campaign.

    Let’s try sticking to facts and see how people choose to vote then. If you have to lie you don’t deserve anyone’s vote.

    Dianna Nixon Dianna Nixon 10:48 am 28 Sep 19

    Ella Factor thanks for the backup. Hard work countering the LNP lies.

Peter Major Peter Major 10:19 am 28 Sep 19

Well that sign is truthful. The Green ALP are the highest taxers for minimal return

    Elias Hallaj Elias Hallaj 11:05 am 28 Sep 19

    Peter Major not true. The LNP have historically (and currently with the ScoMo/Turnbull/Abbott government) had the highest tax to GDP ratio.

    Elias Hallaj Elias Hallaj 12:02 pm 28 Sep 19

    Ian McLeod yes I am biased. But the figures can’t be denied. LNP governments alway tax higher and the highest Taxing government in recent history was John Howard’s. And the current LNP government is heading to those same higher tax levels, not to mention the fact that they have literally doubled the national debt after previously and cynically claiming it was at emergency levels under the previous Labor government (during the GFC, which is a whole other lesson in how badly conservatives are at managing the economy and fiscal policy).

    Elias Hallaj Elias Hallaj 12:15 pm 28 Sep 19

    Ian McLeod lols, look at the graph. Labor cut taxes after each period of unsustainable “tax and spend” by the preceding Liberal regime. It also sounds like you opposed economic stimulus to save jobs and protect people in Australia from unemployment and poverty and all its effects, which people of privilege never understand. But I know I’m not going to change the mind of anyone that starts abusing people on social media and calling them childish because they disagree with them and use simple facts that can’t be ignored. At least I admit my biases. Have a good life.

    Paul Kindermann Paul Kindermann 10:05 am 29 Sep 19

    Elias Hallaj pull out digger - logic and facts have no impact on these folks.

David Bourke David Bourke 10:18 am 28 Sep 19

I 100% support this idea

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