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Stand up and speak out

In Australian election campaigns, exorbitant amounts of money are spent on advertising. Our political parties rely on wealthy donors, and our political leaders spend enormous amounts of time and energy raising money.

In the past decade, we have seen other groups with deep pockets, including mining companies, the tobacco industry, trade unions, lobby groups, activists and multimillionaires, buying ads and using them to try to influence the political agenda.

Analysis of spending by the major parties in July and August 2013 across television, print, magazine, radio, leaflets and billboard advertising, showed the Coalition spent $6.82 million, the ALP just over $4 million and the Palmer United Party $3 million during the election campaign.

Trade union advertising amounted to $2.3 million. The two biggest spending lobby groups were the Australian Salary Packaging Industry Association and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

The power of television means the parties are willing to pay exorbitant amounts for precious seconds of airtime. This is especially true in Australia where broadcasters can – and do – charge high rates to political candidates. In other countries that allow paid political ads, such as the US and Germany, broadcasters must offer reduced rates to parties and candidates during elections.

In the UK, paid political advertising has never been allowed on television or radio. This law applies to both political parties and lobby groups, and was designed to avoid the risk that public debate would be distorted in the most powerful available media because those with the deepest pockets would have the loudest voices.

It is felt that, as most campaign groups couldn’t afford it, unregulated broadcasting of paid political advertisements would turn democratic influence into a commodity that would undermine broadcasting impartiality, pushing it in favour of the rich.

As reported in the Age:

“The ban has all-party support. Even the wealthiest parties and MPs have said consistently that they don’t want ”American-style ads”, they don’t want candidates being pushed into close relationships with donors and they don’t want those with higher financial resources hijacking the political agenda.

Instead, the British laws require broadcasters to give free airtime to any political party that can show significant levels of electoral support. These blocks of free airtime used to be up to 20 minutes long but are now usually a more watchable length of 2½ minutes.

This means that all the major parties, not just the richest ones, are given an opportunity to put their case. During the British 2010 election, blocks of airtime were given not just to Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but also to 17 other parties.

Because free airtime is provided, and because Britain also has campaign spending limits that restrict how much parties and candidates can spend during elections, elections in the UK are cheaper than in many other countries.”

In a case last year, Animal Defenders International (ADI) tried to challenge a ban on an ad they had produced showing a child in a cage, as part of its campaign to protect great apes from exploitation (“my mate’s a primate”).

Interestingly, both sides based their case on article 10 of the human rights convention, the right to freedom of expression.

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The argument came down to what restrictions are “necessary in a democratic society”. It would be interesting to hear Tim Wilson’s answer to that.

After pointing out that ADI could advertise by Youtube videos and articles on the internet, or could take part in current affairs programmes on radio and television to raise awareness, the court ruled against them, saying the law was too important to risk erosion by individual cases.

This sounds like a wonderful system, one that would save a lot of money and help protect us from an avalanche of misinformation from vested interests….. until you take into account the concentration of media ownership in Australia. With the vast majority of the mainstream media firmly camped in Coalition territory, a law like this would just open the way for free advertising for them and their lobby groups. Rupert doesn’t have to be paid to bash unions and demonise asylum seekers. Gina can rest easy that Andrew Bolt will put in a good word for the mining companies, that Alan Jones will disprove climate science, and that Ray Hadley will positively enjoy kicking the bludging welfare cheats.

Is it really too late for us? Is it like gun ownership in the US – too difficult a problem to tackle? Are we going to sit back and let the rich and powerful distort public opinion and dictate what is in our best interests? I know they have more money than us but, when it comes to voting, WE are the millionaires.

In the last election, a significant percentage of those eligible to vote did not have their vote counted. The informal vote was almost 6 per cent (739,872 voters), and 7.6 per cent of those eligible, a large number of them aged 18-24, did not enrol to vote. Of the approximately one million Australians living overseas, about ten per cent voted.

We need to engage these people, make them aware of the impact of current policies, encourage them to enrol, make sure they understand how to fill in their ballot papers, and impress on them the importance of their vote. It has been estimated that the difference between a Coalition victory and a Labor win was about 30,000 votes in key seats.

It is time for the people to stand up and speak out.

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29 comments

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  1. whatismore

    Hear, hear! Make a start by attending March in March.

  2. MargL

    So agree with you Kaye Lee – people start doing all you can to get the word out and March in March!

  3. Mark

    We have social media and that is becoming more and more influential. I really think we can make Tony #onetermtony. I’ll be at my local MarchinMarch too. It really is a case of just persuading a few % of swinging votes to change in key seats.

  4. bjkelly1958

    “You’re right, right. You’re bloody well right. You have a bloody right to say!” I cringe at how many 18 – 24 year olds failed to register and, hence vote. “Why is it so?” the good professor would ask. My belief is it stems from a lack of education.

    When I was a lad, and dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we had a subject called Citizenship. It was all about what it took to be a good citizen. It was premised on the idea that as a citizen we had certain rights and responsibilities, including voting. We were taught about the different levels of Government and what they were responsible for. We learnt what a bicameral parliament was and, because we were in Queensland, a unicameral parliament was. It introduces us to the Government and the Opposition and, importantly, our role as voting citizens in creating these bastions of our democracy. In short we weren’t just educated as to how to vote but why we voted. I don’t know of a single one of my peers who has not voted when they could.

    The point is, if you know why you are doing it, and not just because it’s compulsory, you are much more likely to engage with the process.

  5. Kaye Lee

    One thing that we will always have that the conservatives won’t…protest songs. What are they going to sing…money makes the world go around? diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

  6. Kath Lee

    All around Australia the people are standing up and speaking out… they are doing this by attending their local march in march…. I urge you, if you do not like what is happening to Australia, if you yearn for a better more honest, more transparent government, join us and so that we the people of Australia decide who represents us in both local and international decisions. Time to take to the streets and say NOT IN MY NAME! MARH IN MARCH AUSTRALIA!

  7. diannaart

    Mildura has a population of just over 30,000 people.

    One single town can give Abbott the flick.

    (For the pedants, that is if all people of Mildura were eligible to vote, blah, blah, blah).

    My point is 30,000 is not huge. The LNP, despite its rhetoric to the contrary, do not hold the power as steadfastly as they like to think.

  8. John Kelly

    Those 30,000 votes spread systematically over the 25 most marginal seats would have resulted in preventing the LNP from gaining government. The informal vote and the young who fail to enroll are demographically more likely to favour Labor and the Greens than they are the LNP. This should be sufficient incentive for Labor to mount a major campaign rather than leaving it to the AEC. THE TIME TO START THAT IS NOW!

  9. Dissenter

    I love the sound of this!! Grassroots Uprising Australia wide.
    Please endorse Union membership in these marches.If we are going to get the LNP out of government as a nation the unions and parties have to be strong to do so.
    While ever unions are being BASHED so memberships will inevitably FALL. If they are truly ONLY at 20% that is scandalous.
    Like the word or not they are responsible for ALL of your wages and working conditions.
    WHen I commenced teaching high school class sizes were up to 36.
    There was no superannuation in most industries or OH&S, no laws about bullying or clearly defined loadings and clearly defined conditions. During those years in the 70s 80s and 90s so many wins were made that enhanced the QUALITY of work for everyone in all industries and put in statutory requirements to protect all workers.
    We should never forget what has been gained with union work and I DID NOT EVEN MENTION WAGES.
    Most of the BASHING is Exaggeration and FEAR mongering. The bullying and so called criminal activity they are referring too is much more prolific among the builders and supply companies rather than the workers.
    Do not believe the BASHING and BELIEVE in yourself.
    BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and value your UNION.
    You never know what can happen in your professional life and your UNION is there to help you IF you ever need HELP.
    Most unions have other benefits as well.JOIN and experience the UNION advantage.

  10. scotchmistery

    I know I will be berated for this, and Kaye Lee as ever, enjoyed your work, but if we want a slogan with a maximum of 4 words, it has to be in some ways a reflection of Animal defenders.

    “My darling is a primate” – with a picture of Abbort cuddling George Pell. Who is of course the most important primate in Australia…

    Add a line for same sex marriage in there as well so we don’t waste money.

  11. jasonblog

    An inspirational article! It makes me want to croon L’Internationale with Pete Seeger http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHNsRZ8iqFc

    To place what we’re up against into perspective, we need look no further than the infamous IPA. In their quest for “freedom” and “liberty” they want the following from their 75 point agenda –

    23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations
    24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
    25 End public funding to political parties

    I personally can’t think of anything more anti-democratic or likely to lead us all back to feudalism.

    Not only that but they believe that “corporations” are people… Why would they think that? Hmmm… time will tell, but the American experience suggests it would be so that there is no limit to what a corporation can contribute – secretively – to an election campaign.

    What is at risk in Australia? Simply that Rinehart & Murdoch pump millions into advertising to influence an election outcome.

    That is why they want to close down the ABC. That is what honest decent hard-working folk are up against.

  12. Fed up

    …..”But for my electorate at the moment, better for me to still be in the tent, being able to stand toe to toe with the [Prime Minister], with those who don’t understand reality in the regional economy.”
    Dr Stone was the minister for workforce participation under the Howard government and was a member of the Coalition’s shadow ministry until September 2010. She was overlooked for a frontbench role in the first Abbott ministry.
    Dr Stone has held the ultra-safe Liberal seat of Murray since 1996. In September last year, she was easily reelected, with 70.9 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote.
    Last week, Dr Stone told The Weekly Times that she was ”committed to being a member of the government”.
    Follow us on Twit……..

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/sharman-stone-hints-at-a-political-future-outside-the-liberal-party-20140204-31z23.html#ixzz2sLm4AYGX

  13. Karl Castan

    Kay, I am one of those people who did not register to vote. I did so because it matters not who is in charge, you get the same government. The difference between Abbott & Gillard is one of degrees. There is no difference between Abbott & Rudd.

    All governments spy on us. All governments remove our civil liberties. All governments tax the poor and leave the rich alone. All governments give welfare to the middle classes & take it away from those who realky need it. All western governments pursue policies which leads to confrontation.

    Democracy as expressed through Parliamentary government is broken.

    I have no reason to vote. My vote will change only the form and not the substance of power in this country.

    Come back and talk when you address that issue.

  14. Billy moir

    The figures 6% informal should be categorised and will show the number of ‘errors’ vs ‘deliberate’ (If the system will let you see the ballott papers)but, even without the blanks, the F###%#, and ‘mickey mouse’ rremoved, surely this is still a very low %. Where voting for Australians is not compulsory, the 90% of Aussies who don’t vote is a sad indictment of ‘nah can’t be bothered, puts the 6% into perspective and the best argument for compulsory voting. The many who deliberately avoid voting by choosing not enrol is swelled by those ‘de-enrolled’ for a myriad of reasons but again a very low number. See complacency is easy in Australia, add, a party with a driven, ruthless, amoral leader, adept at exploiting a disingenuous and compliant media, with a generous helping of an inept alternative rabble and we get the rabbott. He has the power, is too frightened to engage with anything that challenges his beliefs, has the innocence of amorality and is oblivious to consequences. Wow aren’t we in for a hard time??? ps It is still impossible to show the conservatives how nasty he is but at least one woman in the liberal party has guts!

  15. Kaye Lee

    Karl,

    Perhaps all governments do those things you mention to a degree but I disagree that there is no difference between Labor and the Coalition. These are a few things that come to mind.

    Labor was addressing climate change through a market based emission trading scheme which economists agree is the most efficient method of cutting emissions. They also established the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which was giving loans to renewable energy companies and for sustainable practice and clean energy initiatives.

    The Coalition look like reneging on the Renewable Energy target and their Direct Action plan will be a very expensive exercise that will be an administrative nightmare and that all scientists agree will not be able to meet our emission reduction target.

    Labor was building a NBN that would have delivered fibre to the premises to nearly all Australians. The Coalitions FttN version will cost billions, only hook up a few people, and the rest of us are stuck with speeds that are already inadequate let alone into the future.

    On Education, Labor has recognised that we must address inequity in funding…the Coalition think the system is just fine.

    Labor gets their advice from scientists and experts, the Coalition only listens to big business as shown by their appointments to their myriad of reviews and audits.

    Under Labor, Infrastructure Australia had listed priorities which included urban rail. The Coalition has refused to give any money for urban public transport….they just want to build more and more roads.

    The Coalition is dismantling the environmental approval process and avenues for challenging decisions. They have fast-tracked approval for huge new coal mines that will add significantly to the world’s emissions. They are dredging the ports for this coal mining and dumping it on the reef.

    The Coalition are spending hundreds of millions having our Navy patrol our northern borders while they let the Japanese whaling fleet slaughter whales in our waters, unable to provide the patrol boat they promised because they are too busy towing fishing vessels back to Indonesia. Both parties have a deplorable approach to asylum seekers and must be pressured to change it.

    I could keep going but that should suffice to show that you are in fact choosing between two very different Australia’s when you vote. I would be interested to hear your response.
    .

  16. abbienoiraude

    Thank you Kaye for this important piece….and thanks for putting up my dear friend’s song (“You don’t speak for me”….we have been friends since we were 12, 48 years!). Where are the political songters, the satirists, those that use ‘entertainment’ to keep us informed. USA has people like Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert! The boys on the “Hamster Wheel” really really let us down this past few years…became childish and not cutting confronting or informative at all. We need someone like Shaun Macaliff to be our Colbert Report!

    For you, Karl Castan, I understand your argument for I have heard it, mainly amongst the private school educated men of the 21-31 age group. You can never ( as Ms Stone inferred) do anything to change the system ‘outside the tent’. If you are sincere in wanting things to be different you have to be involved, be a voice, stand and be counted. Standing outside looking in and whingeing is no way to be a part of the democratic process. People have fought and died so that you could have the right to vote. If that is not enough incentive for you then your privilege is truly outside the norm.

  17. Kaye Lee

    abbie,

    Tell Judy how much I love her song. I add it to posts on a regular basis. It’s become a bit of an anthem for me and I would love to hear it played at the March in March. I march around my house singing it loudly while it’s blasting in the background…my husband (who, whilst proud of me, is my greatest critic) even joins me now. Shows the power of music.

  18. Kaye Lee

    The people are speaking out

  19. abbienoiraude

    I certainly will Kaye, pass on your admiration to Judy on her work. Maybe one day I may email you directly to keep in touch.(?) Love YOUR work too!

  20. John Fraser

    <

    "John Fraser
    February 1, 2014 • 5:51 pm
    <

    @Kaye Lee

    Its on the backbenches that the Liberal woman will most be felt when the plotting against Abbott gets into full swing.

    I can't imagine either Bishops having to many friends …. I stopped my fingers from typing "girlfriends" because it covers both genders … if someone doesn't have power the Bishops aren't interested."

    Love it when a forecast comes true.

    The lying bastards are doing all they can to protect Abbott though.

  21. Kaye Lee

    If this is not a reason to stand up and speak out, I don’t know what is. We are being ridiculed overseas. First the Colossal Fossil award, now this from the UK.

    “In Western Australia, endangered great white sharks are being slaughtered. In Queensland, dredging spoil is to be dumped on the Great Barrier Reef. In Tasmania, ancient forests – harbouring some of the planet’s tallest trees – are in danger of being stripped of their World Heritage listing.

    Australians could be forgiven for wondering if the federal government they elected last September is the most conservation-hostile in living memory.

    Compounding the right-wing government’s apparent disregard for Australia’s unique environment, say conservationists and scientists, is its resistance to any meaningful action to tackle climate change.

    Mr Abbott has axed three key agencies, including one which supported private investment in renewable energy. So contemptuous is he about the science behind climate change – of any science for that matter – he has not even bothered appointing a science minister.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/is-tony-abbotts-australian-administration-the-most-hostile-to-his-nations-environment-in-history-9107534.html

  22. Kaye Lee

    To win is nothing. When you win there is always somebody else who will feel the need to beat you. The only way to truly overcome a perceived enemy is to turn them into a friend. As we approach March In March Australia 2014 we must never loose sight of our goal of achieving more compassionate policies for those in need, the outcast and the oppressed. We must never lose sight that to achieve this we must win the hearts of “Middle Australia”, the swinging voter. Every thing we say, do, write, tweet and post must be aimed at this goal. We must be the change we want to see in the world, decent, transparent, accountable and compassionate. This is not always easy and sometimes we will fail to be who we need to be, perhaps this will serve to make us more understanding of those we seek to change.

    In kindness
    Fr Rod

  23. Misst

    OOOh I just love Judy Small … where are my LPs?? Sadly they’ve been shoved away to make way for Cds. Thank you Kaye Lee for the reminder, I must do some digging!!!

    And I must do some walking, too, for the March in March. I can’t possibly stress how much I detest our present PM!! I’ve been computerless since just before Xmas so I just searched and found the face book page and a web page for those of us who’ve been resisting facebook!! Ohh it looks suspiciously like in Perth we’re going to be secreted away just in case someone notices! I can’t watch all TV news at once but Channel 7 Perth didn’t even notice the 60,000 strong Australia-wide Climate Change Marches so I guess we need to work hard to really lift the cloak of invisibility!! Is that a tall order??

    I really, REALLY want MARCH IN MARCH to be a success … here in Perth too!! Is there an email contact … or do I HAVE to join Facebook??? I would help here if I could!!

  24. Dissenter

    THe marches will be infiltrated with people who are being paid to disrupt them and turn them violent. People need to be warned. Take full film coverage of everything. Do not react. Stay calm and walk away from trouble.
    The LNP will see them as a vehicle to use as excuse for new ban on assembly laws quite possibly.
    Walk for democracy WALK WITH HOPE AND GOODNESS IN YOUR HEARTS, BUT WALK with CARE my friends.

  25. Simone Casey

    Keeping up with what Centrelink and Employment Services ask you to do is like having a job in itself. Sometimes the things they make you do don’t even seem to make a lot of sense. If you’ve had bad experience like this, you might like to get involved in some research being conducted at RMIT. Please contact the researcher to find out about how you might participate in this project: Simone Casey: S9502268@student.rmit.edu.au

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