One of the odd things to me about the whole interest rates advertising affair is the general assumption that the Reserve Bank was taking an active step when it referred Liberal Party ads to the Australian Electoral Commission. But as everyone knows (don’t they?) the AEC has virtually no role in governing truth in electoral advertising – including untruthful attributions. As AEC Backgrounder 15 states:
30. This means that the AEC has no role or responsibility in handling complaints about allegedly untrue statements in published or broadcast electoral advertisements that are intended to influence the judgement of voters about who they should vote for.
(Also see paras 46-57 on this issue)
Later in the same briefing paper, the AEC makes clear that about the only grounds on which candidates can appeal is defamation. And even then….
61. If candidates believe they have been defamed by statements made in electoral advertising, then the AEC recommends that they pursue their own action against those responsible, either under the common law of defamation or under section 350 of the Electoral Act. The AEC does not initiate action on behalf of candidates. Candidates are in a better position to know the truth of statements made against them than the AEC.
It seems a bit much to suggest that the RBA actually did something productive when it wrote to the AEC. Surely the RBA knew they were merely handing the issue off to a toothless tiger?