Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall asks the PM to stop the lies in political advertising

22 November 2021

Ms STEGGALL: To the Prime Minister: in Australia, trust in government and politicians is at an all-time low. With a federal election now looming, voters will yet again be bombarded with fake news, misleading claims and outright lies. Will you prohibit misleading and deceptive political advertising by supporting the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Stop the Lies) Bill before the next election?

Mr MORRISON (Cook—Prime Minister) (14:14): I'll ask the Special Minister of State to add further to my answer, but I note the member's preamble to the question about the misleading and deceptive information that comes
forward in campaigns. I think she's just given us a preview of the Labor Party's campaign at the next election, because they have form. They have form. We remember the 'Mediscare' misrepresentations and untruths. We remember the calls to pensioners in the night, seeking to frighten people in the middle of the election campaign. We remember all of that, and we know they're doing it again. They're out there trying to frighten pensioners on a daily basis. They're trying to operate underneath the radar. It's very sneaky from Labor. That's what we get used to, and we know that, when the Leader of the Opposition can't make the points himself, he gets premiers to make them for him. That's what he does. We can get used to that.

Ms Steggall: A point of order on relevance: I didn't ask about alternative policies. I asked whether he would support prohibiting misleading and deceptive advertising.

The SPEAKER: That's right. The question had a preamble with a number of statements about fake news and misleading claims. As I've said, preambles can be responded to. If you wanted a specific answer to whether the government would support a bill, it would've been better to simply ask that and nothing else. I'm listening to the Prime Minister. I am going to say that he's been able to compare and contrast because of it, but the question was not about the Australian Labor Party.

Mr MORRISON: I'm very happy for the Special Minister of State to add further to that answer. But the preview that the member has offered in her question, of misrepresentations and deceit, is, of course, a risk. And it comes from the Labor Party, who'd do it in every single election.

Mr MORTON (Tangney—Minister Assisting the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Minister for the Public Service and Special Minister of State) (14:16): I thank the member for her question. The government does not support the AEC playing a role in relation to political advertisements. The AEC has committed to a Stop and Consider awareness campaign, which will be further implemented in the next election, as it has been implemented in previous byelections in Eden-Monaro and Groom.

Federal elections are a contest of ideas, and the 2016 joint standing committee report into the 2016 election considered these provisions. It recommended that further amendments be made to the authorisation provisions. That has occurred, and this government has delivered upon them so that voters can clearly identify the source of the political information that they are receiving in electoral contexts.
Those opposite, and the member for Warringah, want to pursue a piece of legislation that will politically involve the Australian Electoral Commission in being an arbiter in relation to electoral advertising. That is an inappropriate role for the Australian Electoral Commission, and this government does not support that.