Australia’s advertising watchdog has said it will “most likely” not consider complaints about advertisements related to the upcoming same-sex marriage postal survey.
The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) wrote on its blog: “It is likely that most advertisements discussing or advocating the respective ‘yes’ or ‘no’ cases or participation or otherwise in the survey will be considered to be political advertising.”
The ASB said that ad industry’s self-regulation system was established to cover commercial communications, not advertisements containing “political claims aimed at influencing the political process.”
“It is important to the [Advertising Standards Board]’s integrity that it is seen as an impartial adjudicator, free from perceptions of political bias,” it said.
The watchdog said that ruling on complaints about political advertising could be “regarded as unduly restricting the implied constitutional freedom of political communication or interfering with the political process.”
“In the view of the Advertising Standards Bureau, it is not possible to make decisions about whether a political or election advertisement breaches the Code without the potential for being seen to be taking a political viewpoint,” it wrote.
“Currently, there is no legal requirement for the content of political advertising to be factually correct. Complainants are advised to raise their concerns with the advertiser directly and/or with their local Member of Parliament.”
However, the ASB explained in the blog post that if ads relating to same-sex marriage by governments, lobby groups, interest groups or companies are regarded as informational or educational rather than political, the ASB will consider complaints on a case-by-case basis.
The watchdog wrote that all ads should adhere to advertising standards which instruct advertisers to avoid discrimination, sexualisation, violence and inappropriate language.
Earlier this month, Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann floated the idea of passing urgent legislation that would apply normal electoral laws to the same-sex marriage marriage survey in a bid to stop the anonymous dissemination of misleading information during the campaign.
But last week Labor and the Greens ruled out supporting the passage of such legislation until two legal challenges of the postal survey are heard in the High Court on September 5 and 6, just a week before the first ballots are due in voters’ mailboxes on September 12.
Voters have until Thursday, August 24, to enrol to vote or update their details and ensure they receive a survey form.