Fact-checking fake news: ACT Greens call for Canberra ‘fact checking unit’ to inform public debate

Caroline Le Couteur, MLA

The ACT Greens today called on the Government to investigate establishing an ACT-specific fact-checking unit to support informed public debate in the Territory.

In a dissenting report to the Election Committee, Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur highlighted the important contributions of informed debate to our political process.

“Once satire at best, the ’fake news’ phenomenon now has a direct impact on the quality of our democracy,” Ms Le Couteur said. “It’s no surprise that the proliferation of ‘fake news’ means trust in our political system and in politicians is at an all-time low.

Ms Le Couteur pointed to the recent election of Donald Trump and Brexit as key examples of the ‘perilous’ fake news phenomenon.

“Our democratic system is based on the idea that citizens and their elected representatives make informed decisions. It is difficult to see how this can happen in an environment where ‘fake news rules’,” Ms Le Couteur said.

“By improved media and information literacy, we’re empowering citizens to make informed decisions based on the facts,” Ms Le Couteur said.

“A fact-checking unit would enable Canberrans to participate more fully and effectively in our democracy. Such a body could be funded, or co-funded by the ACT Government and hosted at one of the ACT’s many universities,” Ms Le Couteur added.

Other key issues raised in the Ms Le Couteur’s additional and dissenting comments include calls for:

  • reinstating the $10,000 annual cap on donations to political parties;
  • increasing electoral expenditure caps for independent candidates to $60,000;
  • capping administrative funding for parties at funding for 5 MLAs;
  • public funding to be available for parties or candidates that receive 1% of the vote rather than 4%;
  • consultation on the issue of changes to pre-polling, noting that the proposed change essentially creates a three-week voting period; and allowing electors to enrol to vote at any time within the voting period, including on the day.