$10,000 fine for breaking promises – MP’s plan

Politicians will face fines of up to $10,000 for breaking election promises under legislation proposed by Queensland Opposition leader John-Paul Langbroek.

The Private Member’s Bill, introduced into parliament last week, would make it an offence to make false or misleading claims in electoral advertising and would affect print, broadcast and online media.

Mr Langbroek (pictured) said politicians and political parties should be held accountable for the claims they make during elections.

“I think most Queenslanders will remember last year’s election,” he said.

He said the public was subjected to a barrage of false promises, and pointed to the scrapping of the fuel tax subsidy and the current assets sale as examples of broken election promises.

“When Queenslanders are told their assets will not be sold, they have a right to believe their assets will not be sold.”

Mr Langbroek said the Electoral (Truth in Advertising) Amendment Bill was about raising standards and restoring honesty and integrity to the electoral process.

“Queenslanders certainly feel jaded and cynical about the political process,” he said.

Independent MP Liz Cunningham said it was a sad indictment on all parliamentarians that the Bill had been deemed necessary.

“The community should expect us to be honest and responsible to the best of our ability,” she said.

Ms Cunningham said she supported a lot of the sections in the Bill, especially the provisions that would force advertisers to withdraw ads found to be untruthful or misleading.

She said politicians needed to be careful not to make promises they could not keep, but stopped short of saying politicians should face fines for breaking election promises.

“Should they be fined? No. I think politicians should be more circumspect in what they say,” she said.

But she believed Mr Langbroek may face problems of his own under the Bill, because as an Opposition leader he would have to make promises without all the knowledge and resources of the Government.

“He won’t know all of what he’s stepping into,” she said.

Similar legislation was enacted federally in 1983 but repealed a year later after a Joint Select Committee passed down a recommendation against it.

Politics lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology Dr Mary Crawford said it had been voted down because unforeseeable events often forced political parties to change or drop election promises, and such legislation would have detrimental effects for both the Government and the Opposition.

“At some point, the Opposition will be the Government,” she said.

It was unusual for a leader of the Liberal National Party to be proposing such legislation since the Nationals had been a huge user of public money for advertising, Dr Crawford said.

“It’s a very odd sort of political ploy. It doesn’t seem to be advancing any sort of political gain,” she said.

“I guess John-Paul Langbroek sees this as perhaps giving him some sort of platform…to gather support in the electorate.”

But she said the Bill may never even come to a vote.

“My sense would be that it probably may continue to be adjourned.”

Mr Langbroek confirmed the Bill would probably be adjourned at least until after the State budget, and said he thought it was “pretty low down on the agenda”.

But he called on the Labor Government to consider the Bill on its merits and support it when it came to a vote.

Premier Anna Bligh and Attorney-General Milton Dick declined to comment on the Opposition leader’s Bill.

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