Canberrans will be able to have greater trust in our democracy if a Greens proposal to ban factually incorrect electoral material during local elections gains support.
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 remove the offending material, or even to publish a correction.
The South Australian law has also withstood a challenge to its constitutionality. The South Australian Supreme Court ruled that the legislation did not impede the High Court’s implied freedom of political communication, as it related to facts - rather than ideas.
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.
“Our proposal will stop political parties and candidates outright lying regarding matters of fact during election campaigns.
“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.
“This won’t stop politicians misleading people, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Australians appear to overwhelmingly support the introduction of truth in political advertising laws. A survey produced by the Australia Institute reported that 87.7% of respondents were in favour of such legislation.
The ACT Greens have long been the party of integrity in the ACT. That’s why we:
- Established an ACT Integrity Commission to investigate and expose corruption
- Are tackling shady lobbying through electoral donations reform
- Overhauling Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to shining a light into Government, and
- Setting up independent bodies that can hold Government to account.
More information about how the South Australian legislation works can be found here.