29 Prominent Australians Call for Truth in Political Advertising Laws By Next Election

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.

Signatories to the open letter include former political party leaders and politicians, Dr John Hewson, Cheryl Kernot and Michael Beahan; former Supreme Court judges, The Hon Anthony Whealy QC, The Hon Paul Stein AM QC and The Hon David Harper AM QC, as well as barristers, community leaders, business people and other prominent Australians.

New polling research by the Australia Institute released in conjunction with the open letter shows nine in 10 Australians support truth in political advertising laws — an all-time high.

Key details

  • Nine in 10 Australians (89%) say Australia should pass truth in political advertising laws, the highest result since this question was polled.
  • Overwhelming majority support across all parties, with 89% of Coalition, 90% of Labor, 91% of Greens and 88% of One Nation voters say Australia should pass truth in political advertising laws.
  • 29 prominent Australians have signed the open letter, which calls for truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.

“Given the drift in recent decades, truth in political advertising and indeed, a cap on electoral advertising spending, are now an imperative to save our democracy,” said Dr John Hewson, former Liberal Party leader and Professor at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.

“Election campaigns are not remotely democratic when it’s okay to lie about your own electoral product and the product of your opponents. Thus we are stymied at the first step of seeking to elect a government that truly represents the informed wishes of the majority. Our democracy needs protection from this deliberate opportunity to mislead,” said Cheryl Kernot, Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact, and former Democrats leader.

“At a time when misinformation has become a serious concern, not only on social media but on an increasingly lean and depleted mainstream media, it is more than ever important to ensure that strict standards are set for political advertising, truth being at the core of such standards,” said Michael Beahan AM, former President of the Australian Senate and Senator for WA.

“The 2016 and 2019 elections both ended in heated and divisive arguments about misleading political advertising,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of the Australia Institute.

“In age of disinformation, new regulation is needed to help stop a fact-free disintegration of our democracy.

“For inspiration, Australia can draw upon 35 years of truth in political advertising laws in South Australia, media self-regulation in Australia and New Zealand, and serious proposals from academics around the world.

“With cross-party support for truth in political advertising, and public support higher than ever, the time is ripe for truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.”  

The open letter as it will appear in The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 17 June 2020 is available here.
Australia Institute researcher Bill Browne will be giving evidence at the JSCEM hearing 9.50am Wednesday 17 June.

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