Electoral law breach: Former Australian leader fined $20k for Facebook posts

A federal court concluded that former Liberal MP Andrew Laming had violated the Electoral law and authorization requirement of election legislation. As a result of Electoral law breach, he was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $20,000 for Facebook posts that he had made without disclosing his political affiliations.

Justice Darryl Rangiah reached this conclusion on Wednesday, finding that Laming had omitted to mention his name and the city or town in which he resides on three Facebook posts that contained electoral matter on a page titled “Redland Hospital: Let’s fight for fair funding.”

According to Rangiah’s investigation, one of Laming’s infractions that was “particularly serious” was that he purposefully hid his identity and resulted in Electoral law breach.

The Australian Electoral Commission began an inquiry into Laming, who was serving as the member for Bowman at the time, in April 2021, when it was discovered that Laming operated more than 30 Facebook sites under the pretext of community and education organizations. The news was broken by the Australia.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) filed a complaint with the Federal Court in December 2021, alleging that Laming failed to disclose his political affiliations on the Facebook page for the Redland Hospital. Laming denied that he had violated the Electoral Act in any way.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), political authorization is necessary for “information that is a matter communicated, as well as intended to be communicated for dominant purpose of influencing way electors vote in federal election.”

Laming defended himself by stating that the appointments were designed to address the loss of funds that the Queensland government had given to the Redland Hospital and not to influence voting in a federal election.

Laming was issued a fine by Rangiah:

$10,000 for a statement that Laming made on his Facebook page on the 24th of December, 2018, in which he referred to himself in the third person and stated that he had “boosted” the funding of the Redland hospital by $77 million.

$5,000 for a post he made on February 7, 2019, in which he compared the federal funding for “Metro South Health” that was supplied under the LNP and that which was provided under the ALP. The image he posted and the accompanying caption were both included in the post.

$5,000 for a post on May 5, 2019, in which he invited readers to give Labor supporters a table outlining payments to Metro South Hospital and Health Service. The post was published on Medium.com.

In connection to the initial post, the judge stated that Laming “does not identify him as the writer and publisher” and that he actually pretended that the post was made by someone individual.

According to Rangiah, this infraction was “particularly serious” because of the fact that it was “a deliberate attempt to disguise the fact that he was the author of it.”

“Misleading conduct of that kind strikes at the core of the integrity of our electoral system,” he added. “The integrity of our electoral system is at stake here.”

In response to Laming’s assertion that no authorization was necessary for the other two posts because they qualified for an exemption from the act’s requirements for news reporting, Rangiah dismissed Laming’s argument.

“If every member of the public could fall within [the exemption], it would be very easy to avoid the disclosure of their identity by publishing what would otherwise be considered “electoral matter” under the guise of “reporting news” or “presenting current affairs,” he said. “It would be very easy to avoid the disclosure of their identity by publishing what would otherwise be considered “electoral matter” by publishing what would otherwise be “electoral matter.”

He stated that the lawmakers “could not have possibly intended” for that to happen.

Both of the posts in question—one claiming that Laming had “ripped Labor a new one” and the other an extract from Hansard—were, in Rangiah’s opinion, not intended to affect voters in any way in regard to the upcoming federal election. As a result, Rangiah chose to side with Laming.

 

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