Allegations of Political Lies Underscore Need for Truth in Political Advertising Laws

In just the second week of the federal election campaign, voters are already seeing heated accusations of lying from all sides, underscoring the need for federal truth in political advertising laws.

Key Points:

  • South Australia has had truth in political advertising laws since the 1980s.
  • The ACT Legislative Assembly passed similar laws prior to the 2020 ACT election with tri-partisan support.
  • The Victorian Premier and Opposition Leader have recently voiced support for such legislation at a Victorian level, following a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.
  • Independent MP Zali Steggall and Liberal Party MP Jason Falinski co-wrote a submission to JSCEM following the 2019 election recommending truth in political advertising laws. Similarly, the Labor Party post-election review recommended such legislation.
  • Polling shows overwhelming support for truth in political advertising laws across voting persuasions, including 82% of Victorian voters and 85% of voters in the marginal seat of Bass.

“At a federal level, it is perfectly legal to lie in a political ad, and it shouldn’t be,” said Bill Browne, Head of the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

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

“Momentum is growing for truth in political advertising laws. Such laws passed unanimously in the ACT prior to the 2020 Territory election, showing it can be done. In fact, the Victorian Premier and Opposition Leader also announced in-principle support for such laws last month.

“The Australia Institute’s Democracy Agenda for the 47th Parliament identifies truth in political advertising laws as a priority. Our research also shows such legislation is popular with votes across all voting persuasions.

“South Australia’s longstanding truth in political advertising laws show that misleading advertising can be addressed while respecting freedom of speech.”

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