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Misinformation Bill is retaliation by elite

John Storey John Storey is Institute of Public Affairs legal rights program director

After a big election defeat the losing party is usually introspective, admitting they need to review their policies because they failed to connect with voters. After the republic referendum and the same-sex marriage plebiscite, the losing sides graciously accepted the defeat, respected the fact that the people had spoken, and moved on.

It seems there will be no such introspection from the losing side of the Voice referendum. The political class and inner-city elites are looking to lay the blame elsewhere.

According to Yes23 campaign director Dean Parkin, the referendum result was due to “the single largest misinformation campaign that this country has ever seen”.

Prominent spokesman for the Yes case Thomas Mayo blamed the “disgusting No campaign, a campaign that has been dishonest, that has lied to the Australian people”.

Other Yes campaigners expressed similar sentiments – it was all the fault of the media and a dishonest campaign and the spread of lies on social media.

Implicit in the argument is that the 61 per cent of Australians who voted No are gullible and ignorant, falling for said misinformation. Some commentators have even linked higher levels of university education with voting Yes. The No voters were just too stupid it seems.

The referendum result is likely to be used by the government to push on with its online censorship laws via the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill. The legislation follows teal MP Zali Steggell’s private members’ Bill last year with the deceptive title Stop The Lies. After the vote Ms Steggall asserted, without evidence, that “it’s clear that the information people had access to through the course of the debate was often heavy with misleading and deceptive facts”.

Yet the Prime Minister has hinted he is onboard with her agenda, claiming there was “totally abhorrent” misinformation during the Voice campaign and that Labor would be undertaking appropriate processes to deal with it going forward.

The problem with laws aimed at combating “misinformation” is that, ultimately, someone must be in charge of deciding what is true or false. The new online censorship laws would empower an unelected government agency – the Australian Communications and Media Authority – to perform this task.

By rejecting the Voice to Parliament, mainstream Australians have upset the political class.

In retaliation the elite will attempt to silence the voices of dissent and ensure this can never happen again.





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