Truth in Advertising

If you’re after a GLBTI-themed post, this is not the article for you…

This year, Campbell Newman and the LNP are talking about serious electoral reform.  Announced on Jan 3, I can’t help but wonder, in my cynicism, if it was meant to fly under the radar because of the Holidays… it didn’t.

Here’s the link to the community consultation page and from there the discussion paper

There are two Parts – one (Part A) is a discussion about the various campaign funding models and campaign expenditure

The other section (Part B) discusses other alterations to the Electoral Act.

I don’t overly care about campaign funding at the moment, but there are some Sections of Part B that I want to devote a little bit of time to (1, 2,5, and 7):

Section 1:Truth in Political Advertising

I’m honestly surprised they had the gall to bring this up.  We have seen outright lies in this government’s campaign: “We will not be making any changes to the laws on those matters,” Mr Newman said when asked about potential changes to surrogacy laws the weekend before the election and then on the very eve of his historic retraction of LGBTIQ couples’ rights, Jarrod Beijie announced the intention to remove access to altruistic surrogacy for same-sex couples.

The paper outlines enforceability and some other reasons as reasons why legislation is not the correct approach:

it should be up to voters to judge the veracity of claims made in political advertising, just as they judge the veracity of claims made in commercial advertising;

In fact, under federal law (The Australian Consumer Law, Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, Part 2, S18) “A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.”

We do not (or should not have to) judge the veracity of commercial claims at all.

regulation may lead to an increase in nuisance claims by voters or candidates seeking to prevent the publication of an opposition advertisement;

Political advertising campaigns might need to be more carefully worded, and provided sufficient documentation is kept about where facts underpinning a particular statement came from, (Something academics have been doing for years, these should be standard practice anyway)

the neutrality and impartiality of the ECQ could be compromised if it is required to rule on what will be a highly vexed and publicised political issue;

Much like the Crimes and Misconduct Commission could be.  Introduce some limits – require “factual statements” to have verifiable facts. In instances where the truth is not known and cannot be ascertained, that might be reasonable to give as a victory to the defendant

it would be difficult to provide a prompt response to complaints, particularly on polling day.

Well yes it would.  Perhaps a requirement that complaints be lodged no later than x days before polling day, and no new advertising be aired/distributed any later than y days before that.

This section also discusses whether “advertising” should be extended to mean public statements and the like.

QLDers are seeing now just how important it is to be able to trust what party leaders have said before the election.

Section 2: How to Vote Cards

I’m from Tasmania, so when I rocked up to the QLD booths, I was shocked at being harassed and harangued by political harpies of every colour and stripe. It was confronting, and it was so *wasteful*.

In Tasmania, we apparently consider people smart enough to make up their own minds on this topic and to follow basic instructions.  If you haven’t got your message across by polling day, then tough luck sunshine! This made voting relatively pleasant and painless compared to my experience in QLD elections…

I should *not* have to explain my voting patterns to people when I refuse their “how to vote” card.  I’m confident enough to say “I’m gay, and your suggested candidates want to repeal my rights, so I wouldn’t vote for them in a million years.” I’d swear those people are paid by the number of flyers they go through… (and yes, I know they’re volunteers)

And even with that battle, I came to the Polling place with heaps of paper in my hand – none of it asked for, wanted, or even useful to me. How many trees were destroyed to go straight into the bin?

I don’t like HtV Cards. I also think that there should be a requirement that HtV cards are not misleading and should be registered and approved by the ECQ before they are due to be disseminated.

Section 7: Compulsory Voting

This section talks about removing compulsory voting. Frankly, the amount spent in those countries where voting is optional just in getting people to the polls is obscene.

I actually agree with most of the arguments outlined,  both for and against compulsory voting.  But I do have some caveats to my agreement:

it is undemocratic to force people to vote – in democracies such as the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, voters have the choice;

This would be the one I disagree with the most, particularly in light of the “the voter isn’t compelled to vote for anyone as it is a secret ballot” – they are completely at liberty to cast an informal vote – they must simply make the conscious decision that they do not want to vote.

it may increase both the number of informal votes and “donkey votes”;

I agree – it does increase both.  I don’t understand why this is problematic.  Actually, for Donkey Votes, I do see the problem, but this problem is easily rectified with randomised packs of ballot papers (each packet is printed with its own order) thus ensuring that donkey voting doesn’t introduce systematic bias into the system.

it increases the number of safe, single-member electorates – political parties then concentrate on the more marginal electorates;

Yep

resources must be allocated to determine whether those who failed to vote have “valid and sufficient” reasons.

Isn’t that why we fine people – at least partly to cover the costs of administering these laws?

Please make your submissions to the community consultation outlining your views on these important topics. Links at the top of the article…

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3 thoughts on “Truth in Advertising

  1. Mmm! I remember Tatsuya saying that for elections in Japan they pray for sunny weather so people actually are more likely to want to go out and vote. Getting people to vote is the battle, and it’s mobilisng the people who already picked you before the election.

  2. I find the non-compulsory voting a difficult topic. I reject forcing people to participate when they do not want to, but voter turnout in established democracies (that do not have compulsory voting) is continually dropping. People who choose not to vote, or do not want to appear to, seem to be mostly ELOC people (thanks ZIP), they do not want control and by not participating gives them permission to assume that problems with an elected government are in no way their fault/responsibility.

    • I think that by not forcing people to cast a valid vote, they can make the choice not to cast a vote if they want to. We merely require that they turn up and consciously make that choice. It reminds me of the Election episode of Futurama –
      “Did any of you actually go out and vote?”
      “I *knew* there was something I forgot to do today!”

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