May 10, 2022

Editorial

Commentary

RSA campaigns on truth in advertising

Si Gladman of the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) writes that the RSA’s Federal election primary hope is to see that successful political candidates will pursue reforms that are sorely needed to restore the Australian public’s trust in this country’s democratic institutions. 

In most elections in Australia, political candidates and parties can deploy deliberately deceptive and misleading advertising without facing legal penalties.
While this has troubling consequences for democracy in what has increasingly become a ‘post-truth’ era, policymakers have multiple options available to them to increase truthfulness in election campaigns.

Already there are current truth in political advertising laws in the ACT and South Australia  

Gladman says legislating for truth in political advertising is part of an RSA platform tp improve Australian democracy. 

The platform has two key policies the RSA believes will go some way towards improving Australia’s democracy and ensuring good governance that is transparent and accountable - integrity in government and truth in political advertising.  

With integrity in government the RSA supports policies that improve accountability and transparency of governments in Australia.  

At the federal level, they support the establishment of an integrity commission with sufficient powers to remove corruption from politics and governance, and to help restore public confidence in our institutions of government and therefore our democracy. 

RSA also supports laws prohibiting deceptive and misleading advertising in the political arena.  

“While there should be a robust contest of ideas, lies and deception should not be part of Australian political discourse. Deceptive and misleading political advertising should be prohibited similarly to how deceptive and misleading advertising is prohibited in the commercial arena. All Australian jurisdictions should enact‘truth in political advertising’ laws,” they say. 

The policy pitch also includes a policy on valuing science. The RSA says they: “support policies that boost scientific research and innovation.  

“We’d like to see Australian research institutions become world leaders for scientific breakthroughs and for attracting and developing the best minds in all kinds of fields. We need policies and associated funding to prevent ‘brain drain’ of our own talent to overseas research institutes.  

Announcing these new policies, RSA president Dr Meredith Doig said they strengthen and further the RSA’s longstanding promotion of the use of evidence and reason when seeking solutions to issues that confront us in public life; and the defence of liberal democracy, freedom of thought, conscience and belief, and an open and just society.

“We believe these reforms are crucial for our democracy. If, through our advocacy and lobbying work, the Rationalist Society of Australia can help achieve reform in these policy areas, our country will be the better for it,” she said.  

The RSA also wants to see this federal election deliver strong backing for funding of our public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, and a firm commitment to wind back federal laws that prevent the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory from legalising voluntary assisted dying.