Councillor candidates often rely on local media to promote their suitability for office and publish electoral advertisements in the lead-up to council elections.
The Local Government Inspectorate, as the dedicated integrity agency for local government in Victoria, has a key role during the electoral period in monitoring the conduct of councils and candidates and investigating electoral complaints to ensure fair and transparent elections.
Publication of electoral material during council elections is being closely monitored by the Inspectorate to ensure candidates and the media do not breach electoral provisions of the Local Government Act. We want to ensure the media is aware of the relevant sections of the Act and our staff can offer advice and support to any media outlets with relevant concerns.
The Act1 states that the proprietor of a newspaper must ensure the word “advertisement” is printed as a headline in letters not smaller than 10 point on each article or paragraph in the proprietor’s newspaper containing electoral matter, which is or has been paid for or for which any reward or promise of compensation is, or is to be paid.
In addition the Act1 prohibits a person from printing, publishing or distributing a newspaper, circular or pamphlet containing an article, report, letter or other matter containing electoral matter unless the author’s name and address are set out at the end of the article, report, letter or other material.
There were no official warnings handed out to media outlets after the 2016 elections. Three media outlets were investigated for breaches of the Act during the 2012 elections and, given the minor nature of the offences, were given formal warnings. Failure to comply with electoral provisions is an offence under the Act and can lead to prosecution in the Magistrates Court, conviction and substantial fines.
Should you require any clarification on these provisions or if you would like any information about the Inspectorate’s role in local government matters, please do not hesitate to contact our office on 1800 469 359 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Section 287(1) of the Local Government Act 2020, Section 3(1) and Sections 3(4) and 3(5) detailed below.
Section 287 Printing and publication of electoral material
(1) A person must not print, publish or distribute or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, electoral material unless the name and address of the person who authorised the electoral material is clearly displayed on its face.
electoral material means an advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice that contains electoral matter, but does not include an advertisement in a newspaper that is only announcing the holding of a meeting
In this Act, electoral matter means matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in an election, but does not include any electoral material produced by or on behalf of the election manager for the purposes of conducting an election.
Without limiting the generality of the definition of electoral matter, matter is to be taken to be intended or likely to affect voting in an election if it contains an express or implicit reference to, or comment on:
(a) the election; or
(b) a candidate in the election; or
(c) an issue submitted to, or otherwise before, the voters in connection with the election
Reviewed 23 June 2021