Australia’s ad watchdog ‘will not investigate’ misleading anti-gay marriage ads

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau has said it will not rule on complaints about misleading or offensive adverts ahead of a postal vote on same-sex marriage.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the green light to an informal ‘postal vote’ of Australians on equal marriage, which will be advisory and non-binding in nature.

In a bid to circumvent Parliament, the vote will be carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which means it will not be regulated under election laws.

LGBT campaigners have warned that the vote will lead to a bonanza of hate speech and misleading anti-LGBT scaremongering, and in a statement today the Advertising Standards Bureau compounded fears.

The ad watchdog explained that it will be unable to adjudicate on adverts “discussing or advocating the respective yes or no cases” as they will be considered to be political advertising.

It added: “It is important to the Ad Board’s integrity that it is seen as an impartial adjudicator, free from perceptions of political bias.

same-sex marriage rally in Sydney, Australia

(Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

“Adjudicating on complaints about election 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 (ASB), 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.”

The Bureau says it may be able to deal with “issues about the offensiveness of informational or educational advertising”, but not advertising that is deemed political.

An anti-gay marriage campaign is already gearing up with anti-LGBT smears.

The so-called ‘Coalition for Marriage’, set up this month, has claimed that Pride events will become mandatory and kids will be taught how to have gay sex.

The group’s messaging also warns that if equal marriage becomes law, thousands of children will come out as transgender.

Meanwhile, ads from the No campaign are expected to play off homophobia around same-sex parenting under the banner ‘Children deserve a mother and a father’ – even though adoption is not an issue in the postal vote.

LGBT campaigners had long warned that a public vote on equal marriage would lead to homophobic hate speech.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten told the PM: “I hold you responsible for every hurtful bit of filth that this debate will unleash – not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because he agrees to it, he clearly doesn’t. But because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate.”