28 November 2022

Zali Steggall MP presents ‘Stop the Lies bill’, pushes for urgent support


28 November 2022: This morning, Zali Steggall MP has tabled a Private Member’s Bill to ‘Stop the Lies’ by prohibiting misleading or deceptive political advertising ahead of the Voice Referendum. 

Steggall said, “The Bill is sorely needed, as currently under Australian law it is perfectly legal to lie in a political ad.  Sadly, we’ve seen from past elections and plebiscites that scaremongering and disinformation can get in the way of a fair debate”.

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Stop the Lies) Bill tabled this morning, will prohibit misleading or deceptive political advertising in all Federal elections, including referenda.

Referenda are particularly vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation. Already, baseless claims that the Voice would constitute a ‘third chamber of parliament’ have polluted the public debate.

Steggall believes political and referendum debate should be a contest of ideas and opportunities, saying: “Australians want to make their voting choices on facts, not fear”.

The Brexit campaign in the UK is a fresh example of the impact of misleading and deceptive communication in referendum campaigns.

The Stop the Lies Bill is modelled on state legislation from South Australia and the ACT that are both now operational and have captured state-run political advertisements that were considered offensive.

“Public trust in politicians has been eroded over time, some of that erosion is due to their propensity to lie and the lack of accountability,” Steggall said. 

“I think this is vitally important for our democracy and 86% of the Australian public agree that truth in political advertising should be passed”. 

There is legislation that prevents misleading and deceptive advertisements by businesses and there are enforcement bodies in place monitor and respond to claims of misconduct. But there is no law or body to stop politicians or third parties from lying during an election or referendum campaign. 

“I want to see politicians and political parties held to the same account as everyone else”, said Steggall.

“The amendments proposed have been tried and tested as they are modelled on legislation that has been in place in South Australia for over 20 years and was adopted by the ACT last year. There is both a legislative and a normative preventative effect from this Bill.

“I urge the Government to get behind this Bill as a matter of urgency. It is imperative that these laws are passed in advance of the official launch of the Voice campaign”.