I'm going to post a series of blog entries commenting on the mechanics of the 2010 Federal Election. It'll be more psephological than political, although I'm sure there may be a blending of the two from time to time.

To kick things off, I'm going to have a look at what needs to be authorised during an election. You've all noticed the familiar words "Written and authorised by Joe Candidate of 1 Capital Road, Some City" at the end of TV ads or on leaflets and letters to the editor in newspapers. My first thought was: If I'm commenting on an election, do I need to put an authorisation name an address on my blog? The short answer is "No", (although things aren't quite so clear if you are commenting on a Tasmanian or South Australian election).

The Australian Electoral Commission's Electoral Backgrounder document specifically says that authorisation is needed for "internet advertisements" and that the requirement "applies to electoral advertisements intended to affect voting in a federal election where a person has paid for the advertisement to appear on the internet."

So I can comment on elections in this blog without disclosing my name and address: although I've got no special need to hide my name: "Anthony Holmes".

An example of why Authorisation is useful: Melbourne City Council Elections 2008

The need to put an authorisation on election material always seemed a nice thing to do, but hardly of vital importance. My opinion changed during the 2008 Melbourne City Council election when a pamphlet arrived that said "Why does the Greens Party want to close MacRobertson Girls' High School & Melbourne High". The pamphlet annoyed me because schools weren't relevant to a city council election, the schools weren't in the the city and schools policy is hardly central to the Greens' party.

Irrelevant scare-mongering greatly annoys me in politics.

The authorisation revealed that they had been authorised by campaign workers for Bob McMullin (of the ALP), although he stated that they hadn't been authorised by ALP headquarters. Anyway, you reap what you sow, so I was more pleased than I would have expected when the pamphlet didn't seem to benefit the ALP aligned candidates, and Robert Doyle (former State Liberal Party leader) won the mayoral election.

Afterword: In the 1980s, I ran elections for the Monash Association of Students a couple of times. For those elections it wasn't simply necessary for all advertisements to be authorised by the person who wrote them, they also all needed to be seen and approved by the Electoral Officer (me). This is unlike Council/State/Federal elections where the Electoral Commission doesn't need to view things ahead of time. In the hothouse of student politics pre-approval made sense. I kind of hope it won't ever be necessary in 'adult' elections.

An excellent way of ensuring fairness in campaigns is to shine a strong light upon them. Instead of allowing leaflets to be seen only by the limited number of people they get distributed to, is encouraging people to scan or photograph all leaflets so that anybody can see them. My favourite one so far is from Stephen Mayne. He's not seriously expecting to get elected, although I suspect he might turn out to be an excellent member if he were elected.

When you get electoral leaflets, I strongly encourage you to scan them and upload them.

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Anthony Holmes July 24th, 2010 07:33:53 PM

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