Deceptive Political Ad Demonstrates Need for Truth in Political Advertising Laws in Tasmania

A prominent advertisement published by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) in The Mercury today highlights the need for Truth in Political Advertising laws in Tasmania.

Key Details:

  • On 9 November 2022, The Mercury published an ad from ACL that said “Plan to criminalise parents who question their children’s wish to change gender? Likely lose government!” with a link to the polling results.
    • The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI) has proposed reforming Tasmanian law to address sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) conversion practices; these practices treat LGBTQA+ status as a dysfunction that can be suppressed or changed.[1]
      • The TLRI recommends that it should be an offence to proscribe SOGI conversion practices that cause (or a person was reckless about causing) serious physical or mental harm.
    • The Premier has said that he will consult and take advice before introducing legislation that gives effect to TLRI’s recommendations.[2]
      • The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) conducted polling in Tasmania in September–October 2022 that claimed: “the Tasmanian government is considering new laws to make it illegal for parents or grandparents to question their child’s intention to change gender” — this is not true.
  • Truth in Political Advertising Laws have been in operation in South Australia since the 1980s and was used as the model for the Truth in Political Advertising laws which were passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2021. Such legislation has bipartisan support in Victoria.

“The Australian Christian Lobby’s misuse of polling to stoke fear, division and transphobia demonstrates that Tasmania needs truth in political advertising laws,” said Eloise Carr, Director of the Australia Institute Tasmania.

“In an attempt to manipulate politicians and voters, the Australian Christian Lobby used polling to tell Tasmanians something that simply is not true.

“The reality is that in Tasmania it is perfectly legal to lie in a political ad, and it shouldn’t be,” Ms Carr said.

“South Australia has had truth in political advertising laws since the 1980s, the ACT recently legislated them and Victoria has multi-partisan support to do the same,” said Bill Browne, Democracy & Accountability Program Director at the Australia Institute.

“The Federal Government has already committed to produce legislation to enact truth in political advertising laws for national electoral material.

“The revisions to the Electoral Act, currently before the Tasmanian Parliament, provide the opportunity to bring in these vital laws and stamp out misleading advertising. Tasmanian reforms could closely follow and learn from existing laws in other jurisdictions,” Mr Browne said.

[1] https://www.utas.edu.au/law-reform/news-and-events/tlri-news/reforms-needed-to-address-lgbtqa-conversion-practices-in-tasmania
[2] https://tasmps.greens.org.au/parliament/premier-sogi-conversion-practices

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