I’m proud to second this bill, and I thank the member for Mayo for this very important legislation.
The election hasn’t even been called, and Australians have started preparing to be bombarded with intrusive and unwanted political text messages pinging our phones at all hours of night and day. Already you can hear a collective groan go up around the nation as Australians are spammed by the millions, interrupting family moments, our work or our downtime.
Indeed, the last time I got a spam message was in this very chamber, and at least, when I was in the same room as the member who sent it to me, I could approach him and say, ‘Not just now.’ If only every other Australian could say the same, but unfortunately for them, there’s nothing they can do.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has received 4,000 complaints about unsolicited texts this year, and it can’t act on even a single one, and boy, are my constituents furious.
The member for Mayo’s bill introduces a simple amendment to the Spam Act to require all electronic messages containing electoral matter to include an unsubscribe or opt-out option. I was frankly shocked to learn that this wasn’t already required.
But it’s no accident that politicians and political parties have a blanket carve-out from spam rules. It’s by design. In many cases, if a business or individual centre spam message like this, they could be prosecuted—but not us.
When the United Australia Party first started sending texts, both the coalition and Labor were quick to criticise, but I would ask: where are you now? This chamber is practically empty of government and opposition MPs. There’s lots of big talk about protecting our democracy, but, when it comes to legislating, they are nowhere to be found, and I think I know why.
Our Constitution has an implied right of political freedom, which recognises that politicians need to communicate with their constituents. This is very important, but in every other form of communication you have a choice: you can switch the channel, you can close the browser or you can walk out of the room. With unsolicited texts, you don’t get a say.
The member for Mayo’s bill strikes the right balance between legitimate political contact and the right to say, ‘No, thank you,’ and I am very pleased to support her on this bill. It’s what my constituents have asked me to do, it’s what the Australian public are calling for, and I think it’s something we could all get behind if we were serious about this.
Now is the right time to clean up this aberration before the onslaught of our next election. I commend the member for Mayo for this piece of legislation, and I encourage every member of this House to get behind it and pass this bill.