Liberal Democrats senator calls for abolition of election advertising black out

Liberal Democrats senator Duncan Spender has condemned the election advertising blackout that begins on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s election, calling it “pointless”.

Claiming to be a “neutral commenter” because “I can’t afford any TV or radio advertising”, Spender was previously chief of staff to David Leyonhjelm, replacing his former boss in the Senate in March.

Duncan Spender entered the Senate in March, taking over from David Leyonhjelm, to whom he was previously chief of staff

“The ban is based on the idea that last-minute ads would allow political parties to make dodgy claims without sufficient time for claims to be scrutinised. But the dodgy claims of political ads aren’t scrutinised even when they’ve been running for weeks,” Spender, a founding member of the Liberal Democratic party, said.

“The ban is also based on the idea that voting decisions are best made following a period of contemplation free from political advertising. But those who will take voting seriously know that political ads contain dodgy claims and don’t need an ad-free period. And those who only vote because it is compulsory are likely to make flippant voting decisions irrespective of whether there is an ad-free period. If we want considered voting we should make voting voluntary.”

Multiple advertisements have been criticised this election period for inaccuracy, such as a Liberal Party Facebook ad that claimed Labor’s car tax would drive up the price of cars (in fact, Labor’s electric vehicle policy makes no reference to a car tax).

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party also made claims that Bill Shorten will add extra taxes and costs totalling one trillion dollars.

The ad blackout period extends to TV and radio ads, but not newspapers or digital.

“The ban is faulty. It is stuck in the 20th century. The ban does not apply to the digital platforms of our broadcasters, to print media, to online advertising, to robocalling or to spamming. And the ban only applies to election day and the two preceding days, even though millions of voters do pre-poll voting, at times when TV and radio ads are running,” Spender added.

“Pointless laws complicate the law unnecessarily, give rise to costly bureaucracies to police the pointless laws, and generate compliance costs for those jumping through the bureaucratic hoops.”

In a poll conducted after the 2016 election, 87.7% of respondents said they wanted tougher laws to ensure political ads are truthful. Only South Australia has laws of this kind, fining parties up to $25,000 for making statements during an election that they purport to be factual but are meant to deceive.



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