Federal Election 2022: Where the Parties Stand on Tech

Federal Election 2022: Where the Parties Stand on Tech
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The 2022 Australian Federal Election is now only six days away and the past month has been anything but calm in the world of campaigning.

Now that we’re only a few days out, we thought it was worthwhile to gather some information on what the major parties are promising if they gain office. Also, what the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and tech platforms are doing to tackle misinformation in the lead up to the big day

Let’s start with some quick election housekeeping.

When is the 2022 Australian Federal Election?

The Federal Election is set for May 21 — which was the last possible date Morrison could select under Australian law when he announced it. It’s too late to enrol to vote now, but it’s worth clicking through that link to make sure you’re enrolled for next time (under federal electoral law, it is compulsory for all eligible Australian citizens to enrol and vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums).

Also worth noting is that the AEC is quite active on Twitter, updating us with crucial info in the lead up. So if you have a bunch of questions not answered here, we recommend you reach out to them.

What are the proposed tech policies?

While there’s a number of initiatives promised from both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Coalition (Liberal and National parties), there’s also some made by the Australian Greens and the United Australia Party. However, we’ll just be drilling into the technology/environment adjacent announcements — the stuff Gizmodo Australia covers (and will be tracking into the future).

Crackdown on Big Tech

While no solid promises have been made under the guise of “this is our Australian Federal Election commitment”, there’s one thing all parties can agree on, and that’s that ‘Big Tech’ needs reigning in. The internet isn’t exactly going away any time soon, so we can expect a lot of work to be done in this space regardless of which party gets in. Worth noting, too that it’s not just the ALP and Coalition that want this work – MP Craig Kelly (who has joined Clive Palmer’s UAP) is also keen to probe the tech platforms. While the Australian Greens have been mostly supportive of tech giant adjacent initiatives, they have slapped a post-it note with their concerns next to certain policies.

Morrison also reignited his distaste for social media during the first leader’s debate, blaming Australia’s lack of faith in the political system on Big Tech.

Under Morrison, Big Tech will be required to build enhanced safety controls into their devices that are easy for parents to use and hard for children to bypass. Basically, technology companies would need to create the safeguards for smartphones and tablets as part of a new eSafety package. The eSafety Commissioner would work with the likes of Apple and Samsung to design device settings and a binding code under the Online Safety Act.

The ALP, meanwhile, has also vowed to close the multinational tax avoidance loophole, with plans to claw back $1.9 billion over forward estimates. Similarly, the Australian Greens want billionaires and big corporations to “pay their fair share”.

 

The Coalition

So far, the Scott Morrison-led Coalition has been a little light on tech-related promises ahead of the Federal Election, and even more light where climate change/the environment is concerned. Head over here for a full breakdown of the tech-related election policies and promises from the Coalition, but on the party’s agenda are:

Labor

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says he has a “real plan for a better future”. During his Budget reply speech last week, he declared: “Climate change is here and its consequences are devastating”. Again, head over here for a breakdown of these election policies, but at a glance, Labor’s promises include:

  • Powering Australia plan (net zero emissions by 2050)
  • Modernising the grid
  • A ‘better’ NBN
  • More tech jobs
  • A $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund
  • Establish a National Anti-Scam Centre
  • Prep for another ‘once in a lifetime’ pandemic
  • Stop multinational tax avoidance
  • A $500 million investment in a national EV charging network
  • Build some electric buses
  • Audit myGov
  • and a Robo-debt Royal Commission.

The Australian Greens

The Greens’ 2022 Federal Election plan is simple. “Here’s our plan: We will tax the billionaires & big corporations, and provide the things we all need for a better life,” its website states. Head over here for a breakdown of these election policies, but here’s what they’re focusing on:

  • Plan to phase out coal, oil and gas
  • New environmental laws to protect animals, including a $24 billion plan to have zero animal extinctions by 2030
  • and taxing billionaires.

The UAP also has a number of items on its agenda in the lead up to the Australian Federal Election and beyond.

How the AEC is combating misinformation in the 2022 Federal Election

The AEC has been thinking about misinformation for years, but it officially launched its election misinformation campaign in April. This includes a disinformation register that behaves sort-of like an FAQ page where a ‘fake news’ myth is posted and the AEC places a large red ‘X’ next to the line if it is indeed misinformation. My favourite so far is the myth that pencil votes are erased once counting starts. Oh, you can definitely still vote if you haven’t received your full three jabs.

The AEC is also actively fighting the trolls. Over the past few weeks, the AEC has been going hard on Twitter, directly replying to claims surrounding the Australian electoral process. It’s not putting up with any election disinformation.

It’s also quite a cute account.

What tech giants are doing

Meta and Google both have a handful of initiatives underway to combat the spread of misinformation on their respective platforms.

Google says it has been working with campaigners, candidates, elected officials, political parties and civil society to help everyone understand digital best practices and their responsibilities through Google Ad policies and YouTube Community Guidelines. The tech giant has policies governing misinformation, including election misinformation, across its platforms.

For Google Ads, there’s new verification requirements and Google is also applying restricted targeting for election ads in Australia. Only geographic location (except radius targeting), age, gender, contextual targeting options such as ad placements, topics, keywords against sites, apps, pages and videos, are permitted. All other types of targeting are not allowed for use in election ads.

It is also fact-checking news items served up to Australians around the Federal Election.

Meta, meanwhile, is banking on its involvement in 200 elections (around the world) since 2017 to help it with the 2022 Federal Election. The former Facebook says it is using a “comprehensive strategy” to combat misinformation, election interference and other forms of abuse on its platforms. As a part of this, Meta last month added another official fact-checker to its third-party fact-checking program in Australia — RMIT FactLab. RMIT FactLab is a research division at RMIT University that debunks misinformation online. It also produces its own research on digital news.

Meta says it has invested $7 billion (in Aussie terms) over 2021 internationally in addressing problems with its platform and misinformation, election interference and online harms. Meta wants to stop abuses before they occur and not after they happen, it says.

How does Federal Election voting work in Australia?

Voting can be done in-person on election day, May 21, at polling booths or through pre-polling and mail voting. It is compulsory for citizens over 18 to enrol to vote, so best get familiar with the options on how to have your say this year.

Federal Election early voting

If you can’t get to a polling place on election day you can vote at an early voting centre in Australia. A list of early voting centres will be available via the AEC’s website. There’s also a checklist for eligibility to cast your Australian Federal Election vote early.

Federal Election postal voting

You can apply for a postal vote to have your ballot papers sent to you in the mail. You can apply online via the AEC website, or by completing a postal vote application form available from AEC offices at election time.

Can I vote online?

No, but if you are blind or have low vision you can cast your vote through the AEC’s telephone voting service.


We’ll keep updating this article as more information becomes available. The last update was made May 16, 2022.