Vic Govt. democratic reforms supported by vast majority of voters: Polling

Truth in political advertising laws would be a first for Victoria

The announcement today from the Victorian Government that it will back a wide range of democratic and electoral reforms, recommended by the multi-party Electoral Matters Committee and the Australia Institute, would be supported by a vast majority of Victorians, according to new polling.

The Victorian Government today tabled its response to the Electoral Matters Committee, supporting in full or in principle every recommendation to Government in the inquiry.

The Australia Institute in particular welcomes support for two proposals included in its submission to the inquiry: truth in political advertising laws, and improving digital platforms’ digital ad libraries for integrity and oversight purposes.

Additional reforms supported by the Government include:

  • Strengthening protections against electoral material purporting to be from another candidate or the electoral commission
  • Funding an independent fact-checking body
  • A public archive of online advertising maintained by the VEC
  • Social media companies applying greater scrutiny over fake accounts

Polling shows strong support for a number of the measures:

  • Four in five Victorians (82%) support the introduction of truth in political advertising laws, with only 6% opposed.
  • Support is highest among Coalition voters (88% support), followed by Labor voters (85% support).
  • Four in five Victorians (78%–90%) agree with six propositions around truth in political advertising and disinformation, including that it should be illegal to publish material that pretends to be from an electoral commission, political party or election candidate and that there should be a public online ad library.
  • Seven in 10 Victorians (72%) agreed that social media platforms should verify users’ identities but over half of Victorians (53%) would be somewhat or very uncomfortable giving social media platforms a copy of identifying documents.
  • Over half of respondents (54%) agreed that being able to remain anonymous online is important.
  • Two in five Victorians (39%) either think they have or definitely have interacted with or followed an account they later realised was fake.

“With the Andrews Government declaring its support for truth in political advertising laws, Victoria is closer than ever to joining South Australia and the ACT in prohibiting inaccurate and misleading electoral advertising,” said Bill Browne, Senior Researcher for the Democracy & Accountability Program at the Australia Institute.

“Armed with the multi-party Electoral Matters Committee’s thoughtful recommendations, the Victorian Government can make Victoria a world-leader in protecting against disinformation and misinformation.

“The Australia Institute’s polling research proves that Victorians want truth in political advertising laws and better regulation of social media disinformation — now the ball is in the Government’s court to get these reforms done.

“Victorians overwhelmingly support truth in political advertising laws, as well as a public online ad library for political advertisements and making it illegal to impersonate the electoral commission or a political party.

“With trust in government distressingly low across Australia, the Victorian Government should take advantage of the multi-party committee’s template for fighting disinformation and misinformation.

“Reform that regulates advertising and social media activity must be done carefully, but fortunately we have other models – including South Australia’s successful truth in political advertising laws – to draw on.

“Ultimately, voters are entitled to the truth when they go to the polls on election day.”

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