My first opinion piece on The Political Sword blog was written about 10 years ago and dealt with truth in political advertising. The piece discussed advertising that demonstrated alleged reckless behaviour when promoting products can be banned by an industry regulator. There was an instance quoted of advertising for a Nissan vehicle that showed the car being driven at a speed in excess of the speed limit (together with appropriate squealing tyre noise and engine revving) was banned even though Nissan claimed that during the filming of the advertisement, the car was driven appropriately with the sound effects added and the film sped up. The contrast was made with politicians that could promise the world with no intention of delivering, assassinate the character of their political opponents or just mislead with absolutely no consequences. The point was there was no regulation around political advertising in most of Australia in 2013 – and there still isn’t.
All sides of politics are guilty of exaggeration and deceit in advertising. For example, when Abbott was in opposition his claim that the Gillard Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme process was ‘a carbon tax’ was inaccurate at best and a lie at worst. Gillard didn’t help on this occasion by likening it to a carbon tax after claiming there would never be carbon tax legislated by her government. The ALP advertised at one stage while in opposition that the Coalition was going to axe Medicare, also an exaggeration at best. The advertising was rightly called Mediscare by the Coalition government who claimed there was no plans to axe Medicare (although they did introduce a co-payment for a while).
Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is a serial offender. His billboards and TV advertising prior to the last couple of elections claiming he would ‘Make Australia great again’ convinced some, although not enough to make a difference to the election result except maybe in Victoria where one UAP member became a Senator. Prior to the last election I did email Palmer’s party asking why Australia wasn’t great and how would his party rectify that if elected to majority government. I’m still waiting for a response. Clearly they had no actual plan to address their advertised claims. Palmer also advertised incorrect claims at the last Queensland election the Palaszczuk Government would introduce a tax on the assets of those who have died, two years later, they haven’t.
Some of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party claims over the years have also been absolute fabrications. Immigrants in general (and specifically from the middle east or Asia depending on the mood of the times) have not come and taken all our jobs. In fact, immigrants have assisted the economy of our country greatly and there are a lot of immigrants doing the service jobs such as cleaning, caring and food preparation that most ‘dinky-di Aussies’ won’t do, regardless of the need for the work to be done. Hanson knows as well as anyone that her political party will never be a majority in a parliament so she consistently creates advertising claims that never have to be substantiated.
In the 1970’s the Australian Democrats was formed from two smaller parties that comprised predominately disaffected conservative party members. By 1980, they held the balance of power in the Senate under the advertised promise to ‘Keep the bastards honest’. Arguably they did what it said on the box for a number of years by reducing some of the proposed excesses of both ALP and Coalition governments and placing an emphasis on the environment before it was fashionable, using the balance of power to ensure amendment of legislation to cater the the needs of the broader community. Sooner or later however, in the eyes of many, the Australian Democrats became one of the many groups of ‘bastards’ in Parliament when they assisted John Howard’s Coalition Government in the introduction of the GST. Certainly they carved out exemptions for some basic items however they left us with an ungainly tax on almost everything that is difficult to understand or manage. Economists also claim the GST disadvantages the less well off as they spend more each week on essentials such as food and shelter as a percentage of their income.
In recent years, the Greens have had the balance of power in the Senate. Despite their core advertising of being committed to a greener environment they objectively failed to assist the Rudd Government introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2008 (apparently 50% of something isn’t as good as 100% of nothing). To the Greens credit, they did manage to frustrate some of the proposed excesses of the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison (ATM) Government, especially when these respective Prime Ministers were responsible for acting like ATMs to their favoured allies or seeking votes in some electorates.
More recently the Greens have been holding up the passing pf legislation for the creation of a fund to finance the construction of affordable housing across the nation – another issue the Greens have been advertising they support for years. In July they issued six demands on the Albanese Government as well as state and territory leaders. All the requirements (rent caps, limiting rent increases and so on) fall under state and territory legislation. So I asked one of their elected Senators how a majority Greens Federal Government in 2023 would implement their list of demands – maybe in an alternate universe somewhere. After all, the advertised claim is it is would be an easy matter for Albanese to implement the list should he have the will to do so. To their credit, someone in the Senator’s office did respond however the response reinforced the Greens belief that their demands were necessary rather than addressing the questions raised which indicates there has been no thought on how it would be done. However some will believe the advertising and wonder why Albanese doesn’t fix the problem with a stroke of a pen.
Which brings us to the ethical dilemma here. Advertising in politics isn’t regulated. If you or I had a big enough urge to make a political statement and the money to do so, nothing is stopping us forming a political party and telling the government (whoever is in power) how to do their job, what is wrong with the country or make aspersions on the character of other politicians or groups of people who live here on billboards, in the newspapers, on radio and TV. And while there is correctly an expectation that you or I have a right to say how the country should be run, morally we don’t have the right to make aspersions on others without evidence or generalise that particular groups of people are out to fundamentally change our individual lifestyle as Hanson has done. Neither should we be able to make meaningless claims that the country is no longer great or a government is going to introduce a tax as Palmer has done. And despite the advertising, clearly the Greens have no insight on how the housing crisis would be fixed with the stroke of a pen. No one should be able to make accusations and advertise their claims without evidence or any sort of factual basis to support them.
Standards are important, especially standards of honesty and decency. Politics is supposed to be a contest of ideas and ways to improve the country articulated and advertised by those aspiring to be our leaders, not a bear pit where anything goes. If politicians can’t self-regulate, we should regulate for them. South Australia has had ‘truth in political advertising’ laws since 1985. Maybe the rest of the country should catch up.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969