What you need to know… Advertising and Local Elections

With local elections being held across the country read what you need to know about advertising requirements for your local candidates.

WHAT IS ELECTORAL MATERIAL?

Electoral material is a how-to-vote card, a poster, an advertisement or anything else containing electoral matter.

WHAT IS ELECTORAL MATTER?

Generally, any matter capable of affecting the result of an election or capable of influencing an elector in casting a vote such as the name of a candidate or political party, photograph, drawing, or image of a candidate.

On election day only, electoral matter also includes reference to or comment on an election; a council or councillor, or a previous council or councillor; the government or a previous government, the Opposition or a previous Opposition or a member or former member of parliament of any state, territory or the Commonwealth; a political party or branch or division of a party or a candidate in an election; or any matter in connection with an election.

AUTHORISATION OF ELECTORAL ADVERTISING MATERIAL

All electoral advertising material must include details of the name and full address of the person authorising the printing of the material, and the name of the printer and the full address at which it was printed.

Advertisements placed in newspapers require the details of the name and address of the person authorising the material, but do not require the inclusion of details of the printer as long as these details appear on the newspaper.

The courts have in the past considered statements contained in electoral advertisements arguably capable of misleading or improperly interfering with voters in the casting of their votes. Examples of statements which were not considered to mislead or improperly interfere with voters in the casting of their votes include:

  • Party X will introduce a capital gains tax of wide application;
  • the policies of party X will lead to a rate of inflation of 20 percent; and
  • during the previous Parliament, party X was absent for 52 out of 192 votes.

These statements were considered acceptable not because they were necessarily true, but because the Court believed that they were incapable of misleading voters in the casting of their votes, irrespective of whether or not they were true.

OBSCENE OR OFFENSIVE ELECTORAL ADVERTISEMENTS

Electoral material must not contain words that are or other matter that is obscene or offensive.

RESTRICTIONS RELATING TO AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO RECORD TICKS OR CROSSES ON BALLOT-PAPERS

It is an offence to publish electoral material that encourages voters to place a tick or a cross in a square on a ballot-paper.

PUBLICATION OF PAID ELECTORAL ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE INTERNET

Any paid advertising undertaken on the internet must contain the name and address of the person who authorised the advertisement. The address of a person means an address, including a full street address and suburb or locality that is located in Australia at which the person can usually be contacted during the day, but does not include a post office box.

NON-COMPLYING ELECTORAL MATERIAL

During the election period, electoral material does not comply with the legislation if it:

  • does not contain the name and address of the person authorising the electoral material; or
  • contains voting directions that are misleading; or
  • contains untrue or incorrect statements; or
  • contains incorrect or misleading information about a person’s candidature for an election; or
  • uses the name of a Registered Political Party in a way that is likely to be misleading; or
  • uses the word “Independent” and the name of a political party suggesting an affiliation with that party; or
  • uses voting directions contrary to the directions on the ballot paper, or that suggest a ballot paper be left blank, be written on, or that preferences be repeated or omitted; or
  • could result in an elector voting informally; or
  • suggests voting is not compulsory (except for a council poll); or
  • contains words or matter that are obscene or offensive

MISLEADING INFORMATION

It is an offence to print, publish or distribute electoral material which misleads electors in the proper method of casting a vote (e.g. directing that two candidates each be given a first preference vote) and it is an offence to encourage an elector to vote using a tick or a cross.

Any directions for voting printed on any material must be consistent with the requirements for a formal vote as printed on the ballot paper.

It is illegal for candidates and parties to print, publish or distribute electoral advertising material which uses the name, abbreviation, derivative or acronym of the name of an RPP in a way which may mislead an elector.

A candidate is not permitted to distribute election advertising material marked with the printed logo of an RPP in a fashion which could lead electors to think the candidate was endorsed unless written approval to use the logo has been given by the registered officer of the party.

It is illegal to use the word ‘Independent’ and the name, abbreviation, derivative or acronym of a registered party in a way that suggests or indicates an affiliation with that RPP. For example, independent candidates cannot describe themselves as ‘Independent Liberal’ or ‘Independent Labor’.

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