Truth in political advertising reforms before the next election

Truth in political advertising reforms before the next election

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This petition calls for parliament to investigate implementing laws which prevent people knowingly telling outright lies to voters during election campaigns. 

In Australia we rightly pride ourselves on several core aspects of our democracy that we have right, including compulsory voting, 'instant runoff' preferential voting, an independent electoral commission, easy access to voting booths, and democracy sausages. We understandably look at other electoral systems including those of our closest allies, who have none or little of these features, with a knowing confidence that ours is a better system.  

However we should not be complacent. At this time in history democracies like ours, in all like countries around the world (including the US, UK and others), are under strain. The strain comes from attempts at foreign interference and the intentional spread lies on unregulated social media platforms. It doesn't matter which political party you support, these trends undermine the democratic process, which erodes confidence in an already disenfranchised public, which is something we should all fear. This should not be a partisan issue. 

This election campaign saw an anonymous rumour spread on social media that labor had hatched a 'secret deal' to implement a 40% 'death tax'. It was spread via facebook messenger and WeChat. Politicians then amplified the lies. George Christensen and Pauline Hanson told their supporters this was an actual policy that labor had. It was entirely without basis. 

Last election, labor sent unsolicited text messages purporting to be from medicare suggesting the liberal party were 'privatising' our much loved medicare system. The liberal party had no such policy, and any suggestion to the contrary was also a lie. It was entirely without basis.  

Neither situation is acceptable. All such lies are unfair and fundamentally undermine confidence in our democracy and the sanctity of the process. We do not want to live in a country where anyone feels they cannot trust the outcome of elections, or worse people refuse to accept the outcome. That is how third world countries operate. Everyone needs to feel confident the process was free and fair. Some may say this is the simply 'part of the game' or 'how politics works', however when you input misinformation and falsehoods into the decision making process over time we will all end up worse off. We are at risk of an escalating tit for tat misinformation war, with increasingly feral elections. We need a circuit breaker. 

This petition calls for parliament to investigate implementing rules into political campaigns which prevent people telling outright lies. The bar would need to be set fairly low so that free speech is maintained, but there are examples of clear brazen lies which ought not be allowed.

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Thank you.