Standing up for integrity in our electoral system seems even more important now than ever as the attempts to bully and slur citizens grows.
Through a petition to the High Court, I am legally challenging and testing the asserted legal right of political parties to mislead and deceive the public. The High Court challenge is based on the Liberal Party’s use of signs on election day that were deliberately designed to mislead and deceive voters in how to cast their vote.
I have submitted the petition to the Court of Disputed Returns in relation to signs displayed by the Liberal Party on election day that were in the AEC’s purple colour and in Mandarin reading, “The correct way to vote is to put 1 Liberal then number every other box”. I said on election day that I would be taking legal action and I am following through on that commitment.
Subsection 329(1) of the Electoral Act provides that “A person shall not, during the relevant period in relation to an election … print, publish or distribute … any matter or thing that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote”.
The Liberal Party claims they are entitled to mislead and deceive voters as a result of the precedent of an old High Court case that limited the definition of “misleading and deceptive” to just the physical motion of filling in your ballot paper, not how you formed your decision in how to fill in the ballot paper ie, who to vote for. Really, is that the court’s intention?
As it stands, politics seems to be the only profession where misleading and deceptive conduct is considered acceptable by our courts. We seem to be living in a country where the behaviour of misleading and deceiving others is considered a necessary and positive skill set for politicians. Is that the way we want our democracy to operate?
This case provides the High Court with the chance to consider how its previous decision and case law is being interpreted. If they don’t change their legal view that gross and misleading conduct is allowable when it comes to political advertising, we will need to drive change through Parliament itself. This will be a challenge with the current government, particularly in the context of their resistance to a National Integrity Commission with teeth.
As citizens, we should not have had to run this case. The AEC should have. The ability of Australia to operate a fair democracy will be undermined if advertising is permitted that grossly misleads and deceives voters. Is the AEC another government agency like so many others at the moment, asleep at their statutory wheel of responsibility, afraid to represent the interests of citizens, but rather preferring to curry favour with their political masters?
My case is fundamentally based on restoring integrity into politics. It was the core platform of my election campaign. Yet it has been conflated with other legal action that I am not party to. I have been subjected to slurs from gutless politicians using Parliamentary privilege to further deceive the public around our legal challenge. Mr Sukker would surely not be prepared to repeat such defamatory remarks about me and others outside of the protection of Parliament. Unfortunately, given these are legal matters, it is difficult to address the barrage of Liberal Party deception.
On one side, the Australian newspaper, or the Liberal Magazine as I call it, continues to falsely and intentionally imply, on behalf of the Liberal Party, that my specific challenge against misleading and deceptive conduct is related to other High Court challenges associated with possible dual citizenship. My challenge should not be conflated with other cases as it explicitly and exclusively deals with misleading and deceptive conduct only. On the other side, I cannot easily address this conflation because I have been expressly requested not to comment at all on the other legal proceedings by their lawyers as it could impact on their case.
Before the next election, we need a demonstrative improvement in truth, legality and standards of integrity in the way our candidates and elected representatives conduct themselves. Australia deserves this for the sake of our democracy.