New bill tabled to bring ‘much-needed accountability’ to political advertising — Teal MP Zali Steggall has today introduced a new bill to parliament aimed at bringing greater integrity to Australia’s political advertising.

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Voter Protections in Political Advertising) Bill 2023 comes off growing calls for reform in political advertising in recent years. These calls only grew louder off the back of widespread accusations of mis and disinformation during the recent Voice to Parliament Referendum.

The use of mistruth in Australian political campaigns, however, is a long held accusation, with digital giants more coming under increasing pressure in recent years to better prevent the spread of mis and disinformation on their platforms.

The Albanese government has previously indicated plans to legislate on the issue of truth in political advertising and spending caps ahead of the 2025 federal election, though the touted reforms have faced pushback from the opposition.

It is the latest in an ongoing campaign for greater regulations in political advertising for Steggall, who previously introduced this bill as ‘Stop the Lies’ in 2021, and again in 2022 with amendments to include referendums.

“We have laws to protect consumers from misleading advertising, but it’s perfectly legal to lie in a political advertisement. It’s time we protect voters,” said the federal member for Warringah.

“Misleading and deceptive advertising can lead to scaremongering and distractions getting in the way of a fair debate, so it’s no wonder public trust in politicians has been eroded over time.”

Following a poll published by the Australia Institute in October, 87% of Australian voters support for the introduction of truth in political advertising laws ahead of the next election, including 92% of those who voted ‘yes’ in the Voice referendum and 83% of those who voted ‘no’.

Steggall’s Voter Protections Bill puts forward new laws that would prohibit “advertising that contains a statement of a fact which is misleading or deceptive to a material extent or is likely to mislead or deceive to a material extent”. The proposed reforms would also prohibit parties, candidates and campaigners from impersonating other candidates and establish a complaints process through the Australian Electoral Commissioner.

“Freedom of speech comes with responsibility and should not be a free pass for political campaigners and third party organisations to intentionally misinform and lie with impunity,” said Steggall.

She continued: “My legislation aims to bring much-needed accountability to the landscape of political advertising in our nation, something I believe is long overdue”.

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