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Campaign material claim fails to account for the small print

David Williams -

WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Yes23 campaign material for the voice referendum does not feature the required 'authorised by' small print.

OUR VERDICT

False. Yes23 campaign material features the 'authorised by' small print as required by law.

A voice opponent says he's being unfairly targeted over unauthorised campaign material, claiming none of the official 'yes' camp's information includes the legally required 'authorised by' small print.

This is false. The official Yes23 campaign said it included authorisation information on all required material. This was confirmed by analysis of dozens of images by AAP FactCheck.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) says it applies the law without bias, notifying campaigners on all sides if they breach referendum rules.

The claim was made in a Facebook video by a speaker at a Brisbane 'no' vote rally on September 23.

"While I receive letters of threats in the mail for the 'no' stickers, how many Yes23 stickers, banners, placards, have you seen with 'authorised by' written on them?" the man asks (video mark 39min 45sec).

"How many hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the 'yes' campaign and how many 'authorised by' stickers have you seen on any of it? None. That's the problem."

A screenshot from one of the Facebook videos.

The 'no' campaigner claims Yes23 material isn't authorised.

He makes the same claim in another video, railing against the AEC asking him to cease using unauthorised campaign material.

"Ask yourself how many 'yes' vote stickers, banners, placards have you seen that says 'authorised by' and has the name of the company or the organisation that's pushing it and their address? Zero. I've seen none," he says (video mark 3min 55sec).

His claims are bunkum. The Yes23 campaign's referendum resources clearly feature "Authorised by Dean Parkin, Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Ltd, 6/110 Walker Street, North Sydney, NSW".

This includes stickers, bumper stickers, banners, and posters.

AAP FactCheck searched dozens of images across its archive, the wider traditional media and social media. In each image, campaign material is correctly labelled as required by legislation, example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

A Yes23 representative told AAP FactCheck all campaign material is correctly labelled.

The AEC, the federal agency running the referendum, also denied the suggestion there were different rules for the 'yes' and 'no' campaigns.

"The AEC administers all aspects of the law equitably," a representative told AAP FactCheck.

"We are of course neutral in the conduct of our work. The same rules apply for all campaigning entities."

Singage for the AEC (file image)

The AEC says the same rules apply for all campaign groups.

The AEC said it contacts individuals and organisations if it appears their campaign material does not adhere to authorisation requirements in the Referendum Act.

"In the vast majority of authorisations matters, when the AEC has asked for a remedy, they are applied swiftly and in full," the representative said.

Section 110C of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 relates to the authorisation of referendum matter, defined in 3AA as material "communicated or intended to be communicated for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote at a referendum".

Section 110C(1)(b)(i) identifies referendum matters as anything forming "part of a sticker, fridge magnet, leaflet, flyer, pamphlet, notice, poster or how-to-vote card".

Subsection (5) lists what is required to be displayed on the material – including the name and address of the entity, and the name of the person authorising the material.

The Act was amended in March 2023 to the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Act 2023.

Yes23 spokesperson Dean Parkin (file image)

The Yes23 campaign material is authorised by Dean Parkin.

Some campaign material doesn't need authorisation – notably clothing.

Associate Professor Madelaine Chiam, from LaTrobe Law School, said Section 110C(3) of the Act stipulates authorisation is not required "if the matter forms part of clothing or any other item that is intended to be worn on the body".

"Yes23 merchandise such as t-shirts or hats are 'clothing' or 'intended to be worn on the body' and so do not require authorisation," Dr Chiam told AAP FactCheck

She said an AEC explainer also identified other promotional items such as tote bags, balloons and mugs which only contain the name or logo of a campaign entity as items not needing authorisation.

A volunteer holds a Yes pamphlet (file image)

Fine print at the base of pamphlets is legally required authorisation information.

Electoral law expert Graeme Orr, from the University of Queensland Law School, said laws for authorisation of electoral material date back more than a century.

"The High Court said that you should know the source of political claims," Professor Orr told AAP FactCheck.

"Even though you might say, 'well look, a claim is a claim, why don't we just evaluate the claim on its face', we know politics and commercial media – people are self-interested and it's a piece of information to know where it's coming from.

"The other reasons are more legalistic – just traceability, so if someone puts out material that's defamatory, for instance, it's good to be able to trace it."

THE VERDICT

The claim the Yes23 campaign material for the voice referendum does not include the required "authorised by" small print is false.

A Yes23 representative told AAP FactCheck its campaign material features the required small print.

This is confirmed by analysis of dozens of images across social media and the traditional media by AAP FactCheck.

The Australian Electoral Commission says it applies the rules on authorised campaign material equally and acts on any transgressions from both sides.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

David WIlliams - AAP FactCheck

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