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Labor’s misinformation laws a serious attack on free speech and must be stopped

Joint media release

Shadow Minister for Education, Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson
Shadow Minister for Communications, the Hon David Coleman MP

Labor’s planned misinformation laws must be stopped.

Senator for Victoria, Sarah Henderson, says the Albanese Government’s plan would amount to a serious attack on freedom of speech and expression across Australia.

Senator Henderson said that under the planned legislation, there would be one rule for Government MPs and another for every-day Australians who are just wanting to have their say.

The Government’s plans have been set out in its exposure draft of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023.

“This is a very bad Bill which constitutes a frightening attack on free speech,” Senator Henderson said.

“Freedom of speech is fundamental to our democracy, and the Coalition will always fight for it.”

“This is a Bill which was clearly dreamed up in Canberra but would have terrible impacts on free speech in local communities around Australia including in regional Victoria,” Senator Henderson said.

Shadow Minister for Communications, David Coleman, said the Bill gives the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) extraordinary powers.

“It would lead to digital companies self-censoring the legitimately held views of Australians to avoid the risk of massive fines,” Mr Coleman said.

There are many deep problems with the Bill.

  • • Authorised content by the Albanese Government can’t be misinformation, but criticisms of the Albanese Government by ordinary Australians can be misinformation.
  • • The definition of “misinformation” is so broad that it could capture many statements made by Australians in the context of political debate.
  • • Nothing an academic says can be misinformation, but statements by somebody disagreeing with an academic can be misinformation.
  • • Good faith statements made by entertainers cannot be misinformation, but good faith statements made by ordinary Australians on political matters can be misinformation.
  • • Journalists commenting on their personal digital platforms could have their content removed as misinformation.
  • • If the Minister has a favoured digital platform, then that platform could be entirely removed from the application of the misinformation laws.

Under the Albanese Government’s proposed laws, ACMA would gain sweeping powers to require any Australian to appear at a time and place of its choosing to answer questions about misinformation or disinformation.  Heavy fines would apply for non-attendance.

“The Albanese Government has got this horribly wrong,” Mr Coleman said.

“This Bill is appalling and will be strongly opposed by the Coalition.”

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