There is a fresh push by ACT Greens and researchers at the Australia Institute to see truth in advertising laws passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly before the upcoming October election.
In coordination with 15 prominent Australians, the Australia Institute has written an open letter calling on the ACT Government to ban factually incorrect material during the election campaign.
The letter is signed by former politicians, Supreme Court judges, barristers, community leaders, businesspeople and other prominent Australians and comes ahead of an ACT Greens proposal in the Legislative Assembly.
Australia Institute researcher Bill Brown said that currently it was perfectly legal to lie in political advertisements.
“But truth in political advertising is possible,” Mr Brown said.
“Nine out of ten Australians support truth in political advertising.
“Misleading information deprives people of their free and informed vote.”
South Australia is the only jurisdiction in Australia with truth in political advertising laws.
Their legislation allows local constituents to make a complaint to the SA Electoral Commission about any party’s political material that is disseminated in any way. If the offending material is found in breach, the Commission then makes a ruling to publish a correction or remove it.
The SA 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.
The ACT Greens are proposing to amend the ACT Electoral Act to include provisions like those in South Australia.
“The Greens welcome this open letter from a number of prominent Australians, who know – like so many other Australians – that we can restore faith in our democracy if voters know exactly who and what they’re voting for.
“Our proposal will stop political parties and candidates outright lying in relation to matters of fact during election campaigns.”
Mr Brown said philosophical questions of the definition of truth did not apply in this practical setting.
“We expect businesses to be truthful with their customers and hold them to account when they are not.”