The authorisation requirements in Part XXA of the Electoral Act apply to:
What communications require an authorisation?
The following communications need to be authorised:
What is an electoral communication?
An electoral communication is the communication of ‘electoral matter’:
What is ‘electoral matter’?
‘Electoral matter’ is matter that is communicated, or intended to be communicated, for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote in an election of a member of the House of Representatives or of Senators for a State or Territory.
For example, unless the contrary is proved, the dominant purpose of a communication is presumed to be electoral matter if the matter expressly promotes or opposes:
The following matters must be taken into account when determining the dominant purpose of a communication or intended communication of matter:
Who or what is a ‘disclosure entity’?
Communication by or on behalf of a disclosure entity is electoral communication. A ‘disclosure entity’ is defined as:
A ‘disclosure entity’ that is not an individual is required to include more details in their authorisation of an electoral.
Where must the authorisation particulars appear in the written communication?
The authorisation particulars for all printed material must be at the end (or bottom) of the printed material in a font size that can be read by a person with 20/20 vision without the use of any visual aid.
Do social media communications require an authorisation?
Yes. Social media content (e.g. communications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) will require an authorisation if the communication includes ‘electoral matter’ in a paid advertisement (including communications which all or part of the distribution or production has been paid for) approved by a person, or is communicated by, or on behalf of, a person.
What authorisation particulars must be included in a social media communication?
The authorisation particulars must include:
The relevant town or city will depend on circumstances of the individual or entity authorising the communication:
Where must the authorisation particulars appear on social media?
If the communication is communicated by social media, the particulars must be notified:
Do digital banner advertisements that may contain electoral matter require authorisation particulars?
Yes. The authorisation details are the same as for social media. The term ‘digital banner advertisement’ includes static or dynamic banners on websites accessed through internet browsers, or videos that stream when banner advertisements are hovered.
Where should the authorisation appear in a digital banner advertisement?
For digital banner advertisements, the particulars must be notified:
The placement and manner of notifying the particulars for digital banner advertisements can be notified in either the static or dynamic banner, or the video.
Does the Electoral Act require truth in electoral advertising?
No. The AEC has no role in regulating the political content of electoral advertising. The AEC is responsible for ensuring, as far as possible, that electoral advertising does not mislead or deceive voters about the way in which they must cast their vote. For example, how-to-vote cards should not advocate optional preferential voting, because, with limited exceptions, the Act clearly requires full preferential voting. Incomplete ballot papers are informal and unable to be counted.
What does section 329 of the Electoral Act cover?
Subsection 329(1) of the Electoral Act makes it an offence to print, publish or distribute, or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, any matter or thing that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote. Section 329 applies not only to printed matter but also to electoral advertisements broadcast on radio, television, the internet or by telephone. Subsection 329(5) provides that in a prosecution of an offender, it is a defence if it is proved that the person did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the matter or thing was likely to mislead an elector in relation to the casting of a vote.
Electronic media ‘blackout’
Under the Broadcasting Services Act, which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, election advertising in the electronic media is subject to a ‘blackout’ from midnight on the Wednesday before polling day to the end of polling on the Saturday.
This three-day blackout effectively provides a ‘cooling off’ period in the lead up to polling day, during which political parties, candidates and others are no longer able to purchase time on television and radio to broadcast political advertising.