Right to opt out of pollie texts
Federal MP Rebekha Sharkie plans to reintroduce a Centre Alliance Bill to give Australians the right to opt-out of political texts – but without the unwanted charity call provisions that caused the legislation to be rejected by a parliamentary inquiry last year.
The Member for Mayo’s drafted Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2021 mirrors a Private Members’ Bill introduced by her colleague Senator Stirling Griff back in 2019.
The legislation would allow Australians to unsubscribe from unsolicited electronic communication from political parties, and effectively stop MPs such as Craig Kelly from bombarding mobile phones with unwanted texts.
But this time the legislation doesn’t contain amendments to the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 that would allow consumers to opt-out of receiving phone calls from charities.
“Last year Senator Griff’s Bill was rejected by the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee because it would ‘unduly affect the charity sector’, which submitted the majority of objections to their inquiry,” Rebekha said.
“Well now that section is taken out, I can see no reason why Federal Parliamentarians from all sides wouldn’t support introducing laws that give Australians the right to opt-out of unsolicited calls and texts from political parties.
“The parliamentary committee said it was empathetic to the intentions of the 2019 Bill and acknowledged the concerns of many in the community about receiving unwanted calls and texts during elections.
“Back when Senator Griff introduced his Bill there was public concern about constant spam from Clive Palmer. More recently Australians have expressed their anger at unwanted texts from former Liberal MP Craig Kelly.
“With the charity clause out, it’s time for the major parties to stop finding excuses and act.
“We know that voters are deeply unhappy about being bombarded with unsolicited political SMS messages and they don’t like being robocalled by politicians, but the Australian Communications and Media Authority is largely powerless to act on the hundreds of complaints.
“My Bill seeks to fix this issue and to do so in a way that strikes a balance between the rights of consumers and the implied freedom of political communication protected by the Constitution.
“Ideally Centre Alliance would also like to see the laws changed so people can opt-out of receiving phone calls from charities, but if that part of the legislation is the sticking point for preventing the Bill being debated, then let’s have that argument for another time.
“If Craig Kelly wants to advertise on the television and the radio, Australians have the choice to switch off.
“Until now, Australians haven’t had the choice to stop politicians bombarding their personal phones and so it’s time to give the power back to the Australian people.”
Rebekha and Senator Griff plan to introduce the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2021 concurrently in the next sitting of parliament in October.
"Centre Alliance believes addressing this issue is a matter of grave importance so Stirling and I will be introducing the legislation concurrently," Rebekha said.