In South Australia, where a similar ban has been in place since 1985, the Electoral Commission has asked Labor to remove an advert about the ramping up of ambulances during last month’s election. The ad claimed that the ramp-up, where ambulances sit idle outside congested emergency departments, was ‘worse than ever’ when in fact, ramp-up times have fallen by 47% since October.
A difficulty in implementing the laws in Victoria is that the Victorian Electoral Commission does not want to take on the role of overseeing the rules. “The VEC does not view its role as an arbiter of the ‘truth,'” said the commission’s submission to the inquiry.
A poll by the progressive think tank Australia Institute shows that 82% of Victorians polled, including 88% of Coalition voters, backed the introduction of truth laws in political advertising. The 600-person poll was conducted online and had a 4% margin of error.
Bill Browne, a senior research fellow at the Australia Institute, said the Andrews government could make Victoria a “world leader in protecting against disinformation and misinformation” if it followed the committee’s recommendations.
“With confidence in government extremely low across Australia, the Victorian government should leverage the multi-party committee model,” he said.
Greens integrity spokesman and Brunswick MP Tim Read said there should be penalties in Victoria for deliberately misleading voters.
“Introducing truth in political advertising laws would be a good first step towards solving this problem and would make it harder for parties to mislead voters,” he said.
Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, opinion and expert analysis. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.