Zali Steggall asks if the government will support stopping the lies in political advertising

29 November 2022

Ms STEGGALL (Warringah) (14:17): Prime Minister, right now it's perfectly legal for political parties and politicians to lie in advertising for elections and referenda. I tabled my stop the lies bill yesterday to stop this. Will the government support regulating against misleading and deceptive advertising in election and referenda advertising to ensure a fact-based, respectful debate on the Voice?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Prime Minister) (14:17): I thank very much the member for Warringah for her question, and I also thank her for raising it with me in a meeting that we held. That was very important. The member is very sincere in her strong view, which I share, that our electoral system and our democracy rely upon people being truthful and people being able to make decisions based upon the facts being there and not distorted. In particular the member has raised concern about the referendum on the constitutional recognition of First Nations people in our nation's birth certificate, our Constitution, and that is important because there has been a lot of misinformation already out there, including that somehow it would usurp the role of this parliament, even though it is very clear from the discussions and the drafts that have been put forward that that will not be the case.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Members on my left will cease interjecting. The member for Groom is on his last warning.

Mr ALBANESE: To change our electoral system, though, is a complex and difficult task. We have the usual Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry at the moment into the 2022 election. One of the issues that they will examine is the potential for truth in political advertising laws to enhance the integrity and transparency of the electoral system. I think that is certainly something that is worthy of examination. We await that report.

I had a discussion with the Special Minister of State, who is responsible for the AEC, after our discussion earlier today. He indicated to me that the AEC had expressed some concern to him about the capacity that they have to make judgements and what mechanism they would have to put in place in order to achieve the outcome that the member for Warringah seeks, which, as I say, is a very worthy one.

I note that the member for Warringah and other crossbench members have raised the South Australian state laws with me, and that's certainly something worth examining. That's something that I have only had drawn to my attention this morning. It certainly is worth examining. Our democracy is precious, and it is important that, in the referendum, in particular, but in all elections and all deliberations in which the Australian people have a say, there be truth in what is put forward. We'll examine the member's propositions, but we thank her for her constructive discussion with the government.