TUESDAY, 27 JULY 2021
DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Time to go to Mark Butler. He's a Labor MP here in South Australia. He's Shadow Minister for Health. Good morning.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER HEALTH AND AGEING: Morning, David. How are you?
BEVAN: Good. Now you're familiar with this material. It's been doing the rounds right around the country?
BUTLER: For some months now it has been doing the rounds. It’s a particularly prominent form of misinformation, but it's not the only form of misinformation that Australians have been receiving either through their Facebook feed or in Clive Palmer's case, in the letterbox. I've been trying to call it out for the months it's been happening.
BEVAN: So is there the option of taking this to the Electoral Commission?
BUTLER: When Palmer’s material first started appearing in letterboxes I wrote to the Electoral Commission, really pointing out what Rick Sarre just pointed out, which is this very much looks like political campaigning and election material. It's got the same colour and branding that Clive Palmer's political party took to the last election, but had no authorisation as the legislation requires. Now, unfortunately, the Electoral Commission took a different view and wrote back to me saying that they didn't think that this was within their jurisdiction. And the Government frankly hasn't said anything about it. In the same vein, when Craig Kelly, one of the Government MPs who has since resigned to become an independent crossbencher MP, was essentially running the same sort of arguments on Facebook, I wrote to Facebook pointing out this was dangerous misinformation. Those Facebook posts were suspended. I think Craig Kelly was actually thrown off Facebook for a period of time as well, in accordance with the approach that Facebook has taken globally. But I shouldn't really be continuing to have to take this up. Certainly Kevin and his daughter shouldn't be the ones really calling this material out, the Prime Minister should be doing it and time and time again, whether it's Craig Kelly or Clive Palmer, or over the weekend, George Christensen, who was at one of these stupid rallies, protesting against lock downs, the Prime Minister stays quiet.
BEVAN: Are there rules, though, during a pandemic, where the Government can say, look, this is information which is going to put the general public at risk and therefore it's illegal and you've got to stop. So rather than approaching it from a political Electoral Commission point of view, it's approached from a health point of view, a health messaging point of view?
BUTLER: There are different regimes. The TGA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, for example, which oversees the regulation of medicines and vaccines, has a regime about what people can say, through the advertisement of medicines and vaccines and what doctors can say, for example, and it's been reasonably active about that. As I said, there are protocols that some of the social media organisations have, the traditional media have as well. And as I said, I've been trying to utilise that. But there's no cover or regime and clearly Clive Palmer appears to have recognised that this postal, traditional postal way of communicating, sticking stuff in people's letter boxes, is relatively unregulated. As I said, I tried to shut it down through the AEC structures that didn't work. The Government just doesn't appear to have tried anything.
BEVAN: Well, we have put in a call to Clive Palmer’s media team, and the message that's just come back is his schedule is full until late August. So it might be a bit of time before we get to talk to Clive Palmer. Mark Butler, thanks for your time.
BUTLER: Thank you, David.