2020 ACT Election: Greens to bring truth in electoral advertising to a vote

Australian Greens

The Greens will bring truth in politics to a vote in the ACT Legislative Assembly next week, calling on the other parties to support a ban on factually incorrect electoral material.

With less than 100 days until the polls open in the ACT, the ACT Greens will urgently bring this debate to a vote to ensure that incorrect electoral material – including intentionally deceiving and misleading information – is banned ahead of the 2020 election.

Under current ACT and Federal electoral legislation, ‘deceptive conduct’ is prohibited when voters cast a vote. For example, fraudulent how-to-vote cards are banned under existing law.

However, the ACT Greens would like to see laws around protecting our democratic integrity expanded. The Greens are proposing to amend the Electoral Act to include provisions similar to those that exist in South Australia that makes it illegal to disseminate political material or advertising that is factually incorrect during the election period.

South Australia is currently the only jurisdiction in Australia with truth in political advertising laws. Similar laws were also proposed in Queensland in 1995.

Adopting similar legislation in the ACT would only cover authorised political advertising where matters of fact were in dispute.

The SA legislation allows local constituents to make a complaint about any party political material that’s disseminated in any way to the SA electoral commission, who can then make a ruling. This ruling could be to publish a correction or remove the offending material.

Local and national

Pressure is mounting for stronger electoral accountability laws at the local and national level. It comes as an open letter co-ordinated by the Australia Institute and signed by 29 prominent Australians calls for Parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech. The letter is signed by a number of former political party leaders and politicians, former Supreme Court judges, as well as barristers, community leaders, business people and other prominent Australians.

In August 2019, a report from the Australia Institute (TAI) found that truth in political advertising laws are supported by 84% of Australians.

Comments attributable to ACT Greens democracy spokesperson, Caroline Le Couteur MLA:

“When it comes to cleaning up our democracy and restoring trust in our political system, the Greens have set the agenda and the standard.

“Soon Canberrans will be asked to elect a new Government. Voters should be able to go to the polls knowing exactly what they’re voting for.

“Our proposal will stop political parties and candidates outright lying regarding matters of fact during election campaigns.

“At the last Federal election the Coalition claimed that Labor was planning to introduce a death tax, which they were not.

“This won’t stop politicians misleading people, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

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