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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1694

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(6.32) —Senator Watson has raised a question on which he has been endeavouring to get clarification in the Parliament for a number of days. I think it is a matter of interest to all honourable senators and members to get an understanding of it. It relates to section 334 of the renumbered and revised Electoral Act, which is a simplified version of the old section 164B which has been in force since 1946. The provision, which is summarised in the Candidates Handbook, deals with writing, drawing and depicting, not depositing, as the language in the summary would have it. I think that has created quite a lot of misleading reaction. It is the case, on my reading of the section, and certainly on the advice that the Attorney- General's Department has previously given, that what the new section 334 is about is really graffiti and defacement of public places rather than simply sticking up posters or signs in windows or other public locations.

It should be noted that the old provisions restricted posters that could be publicly displayed to those which were smaller than 1,200 square inches-30 inches by 40 inches. Those provisions have been repealed. That makes it even more clear, when one looks at the provisions in its context, that the normal campaign posters and advertisements are not subject to restriction by this section of the Electoral Act, but, to the extent that they are regulated at all, they are simply left to State and local government regulations like other posters. To make the position clear for all honourable senators and members the Australian Electoral Commission is, I understand, proposing to release a fuller summary of this provision. I now read into the record the revised language of this provision as it affects prohibited signs and slogans. On page 25 it states:

Section currently headed 'Display of posters and slogans' should read as follows:

Prohibited signs and slogans

No one shall write or draw or depict any electoral matter directly on any road, footpath, building, vehicle, vessel, hoarding or any other place, whether it is a public place or not and whether it is on land or water or in the air.

Penalty: $1000 (CEA s.334)

However, the above prohibition does not apply to all signs. Signs are permissible on or at the office or committee room of a candidate or political party, indicating that it is the office or committee room of the candidate or party, and specifying the name of the candidate or party.

That is to be found in section 334 of the Act. In addition, it states:

Normal campaign posters may be displayed subject to State and Local Government regulations.

I hope that that clarifies the position for the honourable senator.