5 March 2024

PM wants an end to 'disgusting' political advertising campaigns

| Chris Johnson
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Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wants tougher truth in advertising rules for political campaigns. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Anthony Albanese wants a greater legal focus on truth in political advertising, following what he described as a campaign of “disgusting” ads in the lead-up to last Saturday’s Dunkley by-election.

The federal government is looking at how to force advertisements during election campaigns to be more truthful, but the issue is becoming more difficult due to the activities of third-party players.

Speaking on ABC radio Monday morning (4 March), the Prime Minister said while Labor was delighted to have retained the seat of Dunkley on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, the campaign was plagued by fearmongering and false advertising.

“The Liberal Party under Peter Dutton, the lesson that they’ve taken from the last [federal] election is to become more conservative and more right-wing,” Mr Albanese said.

“And we saw in the lead-up to the by-election just a whole series of fear campaigns being run.

“And being run as well by Advance. This right-wing group that works hand-in-hand with the Liberal Party spent over a quarter of a million dollars on ads that were pretty disgusting, some of them.

“I don’t want to see Australia going down that polarised road that we see United States politics going in.

“But we did see that with some of the advertising and some of the misinformation that was there in that campaign.”

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Advance (or Advance Australia as it is sometimes referred to) is a right-wing political group with links to the Liberal Party but which campaigns ‘independently’ against Labor.

During the Dunkley campaign, it went hard on cost of living and against asylum seekers.

It ran full-page ads in newspapers and used rolling billboards it called “truth trucks” to advertise against the government.

Its advertising falsely claimed the High Court’s decision over the release of detained non-Australian criminals was all at Labor’s urging – something Mr Dutton and his Opposition team tried to exploit in parliament during the lead-up to the by-election.

The group is “committed to living in a free, safe and prosperous society. And that means restoring the balance by removing the far left’s control, so our nation’s centred once more on the founding freedoms of its mainstream values”.

There have been a number of proposals put forward to better regulate the truthfulness of political advertising, some suggesting harsh punishments for politicians who blatantly flout rules that would be in place.

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When asked on Monday if there should be strong truth and advertising rules for politicians, Mr Albanese said he thought there should be.

“The difficulty is how you deliver it,” the PM said.

“The people who are putting the ads in, for example, Advance, aren’t politicians, they’re not a political party.

“These things are not easy to achieve. We’re examining, and there’s been various committees looking at how you might achieve that.

“But it is difficult because some people will argue what the facts are essentially during a political campaign.

“But quite clearly, the attempt to link the by-election with, particularly the signalling out the use of the word ‘foreign’ is always a hint that it’s going down a bad road, and that occurred.

“And with social media, how do you stop on Twitter, or X, as it’s called now – there was a particularly offensive tweet put out by the deputy leader of the Liberal Party – how do you stop that?”

Two days before the by-election, Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley tweeted: “If you live in Frankston and you’ve got a problem with Victorian women being assaulted by foreign criminals, vote against Labor.

“If you do not want to see Australian women being assaulted by foreign criminals, vote against Labor.

“Send Labor a message.”

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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