Truth In Political Advertising’ A Disguise For Elites’ Attack On Free Speech And Democracy

Written by:
14 March 2024
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“So-called ‘truth in political advertising’ laws are nothing more than a brazen attack on free speech, and are fundamentally designed to shut down political opposition to the agendas of the federal government and the political elite,” said John Storey, Director of Law and Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs.

Today, it has been reported that the federal government is proposing a suite of reforms to Australia’s electoral laws, including granting the Australian Electoral Commission the power to adjudicate whether electoral advertising is ‘untrue’ or ‘misleading’, and to potentially impose fines or criminal charges.

“The political class is continuing its undignified tantrum after its comprehensive defeat at the Voice to Parliament referendum. Shutting down debate is the only way the federal government and its fellow travellers can win debate it seems,” said Mr Storey.

“The AEC should have no role in influencing debate, its role should be very clear, to ensure electoral rolls are accurate, elections are run efficiently and fairly, and votes are counted accurately and in a timely manner.”

“No government agency should have the power to decide what is true or false, and to silence one side of a debate. This is especially the case when political bias can easily be anticipated. The Voice referendum exposed what we already knew, the bureaucrats in Canberra lean to the left. They cannot be trusted to be neutral umpires in political debates,” said Mr Storey.

During last year’s Voice to Parliament referendum, the nation overwhelming rejected the divisive proposal, with 60.1% of people voting No. However, the result in the ACT, home to much of federal government’s bureaucracy, the result was reversed, 61.3% voted Yes.

“The Australian Electoral Commission and Commissioner became embroiled in unnecessary controversy during the Voice referendum and were seen to act in a biased manner, which was a stain on the proud history of Australian democracy and our world-leading election methods.”

“The idea the AEC will be further empowered to become an official arbiter of truth in political debate is a chilling development, which strikes at the foundation of our democratic processes,” said Mr Storey.

This proposal also follows the federal government’s announcement last year that it will introduce misinformation laws to allow the Australian Communications and Media Authority to impose huge fines on social media companies if they do not censor ‘misinformation’.

“The reaction of the political class to the overwhelming rejection of the Voice was to blame misinformation. They do not think Australians can be trusted to vote correctly. This proposal is part of an insidious agenda which suggests that experts and the political class know best,” said Mr Storey.

“The trend is clear. The Albanese government is a government of censorship. Rather than try to convince voters with their ideas and arguments, they intend to silence opposition.”

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