We need truth in political advertising NOW

We need truth in political advertising NOW

In the last few years there’s been a massive increase in misinformation and disinformation. We saw the damage disinformation can do during the recent referendum on the Voice to Parliament.

Disinformation is unacceptable. It destroys trust, it undermines democracy and it damages our social fabric.

ABC Friends will campaign to convince all Federal MPs of the urgent need for truth in political advertising legislation and we’re calling on you to join us in this vital work. Please sign our petition to improve trust in our political system. 

A poll released immediately after the referendum showed that nine in 10 Australians support truth in political advertising laws, regardless of how they voted in the referendum or their political affiliations.

In October, an Australia Institute survey of 1500 people across Australia found that more than 60% of No voters were concerned about the misinformation and disinformation on social media during the referendum campaign, with more than 80% supporting truth in political advertising laws before the next Federal election.

Last year, Independent Member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, introduced a Private Member’s Bill “to improve public trust in political advertising by banning inaccurate or misleading ads during election campaigns”. 

In June, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) recommended broad reforms including drastically lowering the threshold for disclosing donations; "real time" disclosure; caps on donations and spending including for "third parties”; and legislation for truth in advertising. Special Minister for State, Don Farrell, said that the Albanese Government will introduce a range of electoral reforms – including truth in political advertising – during its first term in office. 

ABC Friends believes that truth in political advertising changes should be implemented urgently. They  should therefore be separate from reform to donation thresholds which the Opposition has already signalled it will oppose.

“In Australia, political candidates and parties don’t have to tell the truth in political ads. It’s actually legal to lie in a political ad,” said Cassandra Parkinson, ABC Friends President. 

“We must do everything we can to stamp out lies and fake news in political advertising. The first step is to adopt legislation that bans inaccurate or misleading ads during election campaigns.”

The Australia Institute research showed that this view is shared by most Australians. 

Australia Institute Executive Director, Dr Richard Denniss, said that Australia “cannot afford to fight another election where political ads mislead the public without consequences”.

“If Australia is going to have a healthy democracy, we need to have healthy democratic debates,” he said. “One thing that clearly unites Australia is the desire for truth in political advertising.”

Truth in political advertising legislation is already in place in the ACT and South Australia.

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Cassandra Parkinson