Requirements under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) in relation to electoral advertisements.
Yes, under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth)
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) ensures that the general public is informed about the source of political advertising, and that electors are not being purposefully mislead or deceived about the way in which votes must be cast.
The Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) role is to ensure that electoral advertisements are properly authorised, so that electors know whose opinions are contained within electoral advertisements.
Electoral advertisements are such that contain references to an election, or matters intended or likely to affect voting in an election. Electoral advertisements can be in the form of:
- posters, and
Information and opinions that are intended or likely to affect voting in an election are matters that express implicit references to or comment on:
- the Government, the Opposition, a previous Government or a previous Opposition
- the Government or Opposition, or a previous Government or Opposition, of a State or Territory
- a member or a former member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or a State or of the legislature of a Territory
- a political party, a branch or division of a political party or a candidate or group of candidates in the election, or
- any issue submitted to, or otherwise before, the electors in connection with the election.
Electoral advertisements must be authorised at all times, not just during an election period (the AEC states that an election period begins with the announcement of the election or the issue of the writs (whichever is earlier), to the close of polling on Election Day).
Electoral advertisements should be published and distributed only if they are in accordance with the AEC’s authorising guidelines. Advertisements of this type should, at the end, clearly state:
- the name and full street address of the person authorising the advertisement, and
- the name and place of business of the advertisement’s printer.
In addition, electoral advertisement headlines must contain the word ‘advertisement’ in print no smaller than 10 point.
Statements such as ‘published by people concerned about.’ are not adequate substitutes for a person’s or corporation’s name. Post office box addresses are also inappropriate and must not be used as an alternative to a street address.
The same authorising guidelines listed above also apply to all electoral advertisements posted on the internet.
Where material has already been produced without the appropriate authorising information, and the cost involved in re-printing the material is too great, the AEC recommends that additional material containing the correct authorising information, such as stickers, be printed and attached to the advertisement to render it legal.
It is an offence to print, publish and distribute, or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, any information or statements that:
- are likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of votes, and
- are false or defamatory in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate.
Non-compliance with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) can lead to the following penalties:
- fines up to $1000 for individuals
- fines up to $5000 for a body corporate
- a request by the AEC to cease and desist
- incur possible injunction action
- face possible police investigation
- face possible prosecution.