Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.
Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics 2011.
Andrew Wilkie, the Member for Denison, has accused the clubs industry of lying about his proposed poker machine reforms. Mr Wilkie said, "what the clubs are suggesting about being a licence to gamble is an outright lie and the industry knows it."
The advertising campaign titled "ITS (sic) UNAUSTRALIAN" funded by the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs Australia is reportedly costing in the order of $20 million.
This campaign is just one more in a series of campaigns conducted by industry bodies and associations against proposed or existing government legislation.
In 2010, we had the mining industry spend $22 million on its campaign against the mining tax proposed by the Rudd Government. In 2005-07, we had the trade union movement spend a reported $30 million on its campaign against the work-choices legislation of the Howard Government. In each instance we also had government advertising campaigns supporting the legislation.
In all instances we had both sides of the "debate" accusing the other of conducting misleading campaigns even, as Wilkie has claimed, outright lies.
Whether they were, or are, misleading advertisements and outright lies, the public will never know, nor be protected from. Because the political parties continue to refuse to close the loophole that existed in the Trade Practices Act 1974 and still exists in the new Competition and Consumer Act 2010, regarding misleading and deceptive conduct and so there is no compulsion for those engaged in "political" advertising to be truthful.
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.
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.
Note the key words "trade or commerce" have not altered.
And this is how it plays out - according to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB):
"Many public complaints regarding political advertising raise issues about the truth and accuracy of the advertisement, in particular concerns that the advertising is misleading. The Advertising Standards Board considers complaints under Section 2 of the Code of Ethics, which does not cover matters of truth and accuracy.
'Political advertising' includes advertising or marketing communications about a political party, representative or candidate, advertising about political issues or issues of public interest, and advertising in relation to government policies (whether published/broadcast by the government or someone else). Advertising by Government, political parties, lobby groups and other interest groups may fall into this category.
The ASB ordinarily refers public complainants with concerns about the truth or accuracy of advertisements to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or the State/Territory consumer affairs/fair trading body. However, although these organisations deal with claims of false and misleading advertising, their jurisdictions are limited to matters involving trade and commerce and do not extend to political advertising.
Currently, there is no legal requirement for the content of political advertising to be factually correct. Complainants are advised to raise their concerns with the advertiser directly and/or with their local Member of Parliament."
So there we have it.
If you want to engage in the business of political advertising, you can basically say whatever you like and there will be no repercussions. Is it any surprise, therefore, that industry bodies allegedly do just that?
If the political parties believe that it is acceptable, even desirable, for them to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct in their political campaigns, then they have nothing to complain about when others do the same.
As a professional marketer, it disgusts me. As a citizen, it infuriates me.
Neither Andrew Wilkie nor Nick Xenophon are responsible for this political inertia on political advertising, but in their quest to address problem gambling they are experiencing first hand its implications.
The Labor Party, too, for the second time in two years is doing so as well.
"Whatsoever a man soeth, that shall he also reap" Galatians VI.
Note: On 1 January 2011 the Trade Practices Act 1974 was renamed the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) 2010, and section 52 is now section 18 of Schedule 2 of the CCA.