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Canberra
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Most Canberrans want truth in political advertising laws

Nine out of 10 ACT residents (89%) agree the ACT should pass truth in political advertising laws, according to new research from progressive think-tank, the Australia Institute.

Strong support was seen across all voting persuasions, with 91% of Labor voters, 84% of Liberal voters, 94% of Greens voters, and 93% of ‘other/independent’ voters supporting such legislation:

  • Nine in 10 ACT residents (89%) agree the ACT should pass truth in political advertising laws, including overwhelming majority support across all parties: 91% of Labor voters, 84% of Liberal voters, 94% of Greens voters, and 93% of ‘other’ voters.
  • The ACT Electoral Commission is the preferred adjudicator of truth in political advertising laws (37%), followed by magistrates and judges through the legal system (31%)
    • Only 9% select an industry body as their preferred adjudicator, 8% select a special panel of former politicians.

Of those surveyed, one-third (33.9%) thought parties and candidates “that published inaccurate and misleading ads” should be forced to publish retractions at their own expense, while one-quarter (25.1%) favoured the loss of “some or all public funding”. Two in 10 (19.9%) thought “criminal charges” should be laid, while 14% favoured “fines and other financial penalties”.

According to Ben Oquist, executive director of the Australia Institute, “these results show overwhelming community support for robust truth in political advertising laws”.

“While election campaigning by its very nature will always be strong and robust, it should not be perfectly legal to lie in a political advertisement.”

“Political advertisements that are deceptive and misleading interfere with the public’s ability to make informed decisions. Without action and regulation, we risk a democratic crisis and election campaigns risk sliding into a free-fall of fake news,” Mr Oquist said.

“Around the world, democracies are struggling to adjust to a world full of disinformation. How to address this challenge will be a defining issue of our age. As the nation’s capital, the ACT has the opportunity to play a leadership role in this regard.

“The time is ripe for truth in political advertising laws that are constitutional, uphold free speech, but introduce a measure of fairness and accountability to the political process,” he said.

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