Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.
Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics.
I received some rather interesting feedback to my piece this week "Oh! What a tangled web we weave" which dealt with the lack of a requirement for truth in "political" advertising campaigns.
First, I learnt that as of January 2011 the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 had replaced the Trade Practices Act 1974.
Having been a marketer, both commercially and academically, for 26 years I was very familiar with section 52 of The Trade Practices Act:
Trade Practices Act 1974 - Section 52 - Misleading or deceptive conduct
(1) A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my piece, this section of the Act could not stop those engaged in political advertising to mislead or deceive because they were not involved in "trade or commerce".
When I was informed that the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 had replaced the Trade Practices Act 1974, and that section 52 had been replaced by section 18 of schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, I was anticipating, with great excitement, a marked improvement as it related to political advertising.
Competition and Consumer Act 2010 Part 2-1 Misleading or deceptive conduct
Section 18 - Misleading or deceptive conduct
(1) A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.
So the net sum of the change was, rather than "a corporation shall not" it now reads "a person must not".
Well that was tremendous news! I cannot describe how delighted I was to see that change. Note the key words "trade or commerce" had not altered.
No doubt specifying a "person" rather than a "corporation" is very helpful to enforce the principle of stopping misleading and deceptive conduct, and "must" is a stronger word than "shall", but in terms of dealing with political advertising it made no difference.
Second, I was informed that there had been attempts made in the past to address this issue and that there were a multitude of reasons there were no restrictions in place for political advertising as there were for commercial advertising.
In short, the reasons can be summarised in one simple phrase: are you ready for this?....."It's all too hard!"
Bandicoot bollocks! Kangaroo cobblers!
If prohibiting misleading and deceptive conduct can be made to work in the commercial world - as it does, as it must - then it can be made to work in the political world - as it should, as it must.
And not simply for election periods, it must apply for the whole year, every year, for all political players, including: political parties, lobby groups, industry associations and corporations involving themselves in political campaigns.
This is far too important for the health of our democracy to cop out with "it's all too hard".
Our democracy belongs to its citizens who deserve to be told the truth, not the political parties or lobby groups or the myriad of self serving rent seekers, all of whom are quite prepared to distort the truth for their own benefit.
While we cannot stop those involved in political discourse from sprouting misleading and deceptive statements in their public utterances, we can stop them from doing so in advertising.
This problem needs to be dealt with and dealt with soon, before it's too late.
For your reference, "Oh! What a tangled web we weave" is posted below.
Finally, if you think political campaigns are inclined to "dance" around the truth, have a look at these fellows, they have no equal but at least their dancing is genuine: The Nicholas Brothers Muhammad Ali