Bill to give Australians the right to opt-out of political texts

25 Oct 2021

Federal Crossbench MP Rebekha Sharkie is introducing legislation this morning that will give Australians the right to opt-out of political texts and robocalls.

The Unsolicited Political Communications Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 mirrors a Private Members’ Bill introduced by her Centre Alliance colleague Senator Stirling Griff back in 2019.

This updated legislation doesn't contain the 'charity call' provisions that caused the 2019 version to be rejected by a parliamentary inquiry last year.

Rebekha's legislation would allow Australians to unsubscribe from unsolicited electronic communication from political parties, and effectively stop MPs such as Craig Kelly, or any other politician, 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 the original Bill was rejected by the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee because it would ‘unduly affect the charity sector’,” 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.

“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.

“If Craig Kelly wants to advertise on the television and the radio, Australians have the choice to switch off.

"That's not the case with spam texts and calls so it’s time to give the power back to the Australian people. And with the charity clause out, it’s time for the major parties to stop finding excuses and act."

Rebekha said it was completely unreasonable to spam voters with unwanted political texts.

"It amounts to harassment because voters currently have no way of opting out of electioneering texts. My Bill that will enable voters to do just that," Rebekha said.

"My Bill will require political parties and candidates to include an unsubscribe function with all unsolicited electronic communication - including SMS – that contains electoral content.

"This approach strikes a good balance because it respects people’s choices without impinging on the implied freedom of political communication protected by the Constitution."

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