Candidates, political parties, commentators, publishers, broadcasters and the media are advised to familiarise themselves with the electoral offences listed in the Northern Territory Electoral Act.
The information provided about campaigning and advertising offences is a guide only. Alleged offences under the Electoral Act are assessed on a case-by-case basis and, ultimately, it is for the Courts to decide in any particular case. If you are in doubt about the interpretation of the law in particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.
For Legislative Assembly elections, all campaign material and electoral matter must clearly state the name and address of the person authorising the publication or distribution. Requirements for authorisation also apply to broadcasters, newspapers and printers of electoral matter. See below.
Authorisation requires the use of the full street address, including suburb or locality, at which the person can usually be contacted. The use of a post office box is not permitted.
Electoral advertisements outside of an election period should also be authorised.
During the election period, campaign material, both printed and in electronic format, must have the name and address of the person authorising the advertisement and, if a printed document, the name and address of the printer printed at the end.
Campaign material includes any advertisement or document etc intended to promote the electoral prospect of a candidate or group of candidates for an election. For example:
- an electoral advertisement
- a printed document such as a handbill, pamphlet, how-to-vote card
- a message containing electoral matter that is sent by telephone or broadcast by electronic means
- published material containing electoral matter.
Electoral matter is any matter, in printed or electronic form, intended, or likely, to affect voting at an election.
An address, of the author of an election article, means:
- if the author is the registered officer of the registered party – the party’s address, or
- if the author is the proprietor of a newspaper or an employee of the proprietor of a newspaper – the proprietors business address, or
- otherwise – the street name (if any) and locality of the author’s residence.
Where the material is to be viewed from two sides, the authorisation and the name and address of the printer are required on both sides. Letters to the editor of a newspaper, if published, require the name and address of the author.
A person must not publish or distribute any campaign material that:
- Is likely to mislead or deceive an elector or improperly interfere with an elector casting a vote, or
- Contains an untrue or incorrect statement.
Electronic advertising - radio, TV, Internet
The Commonwealth Broadcasting Services Act Schedule 2 requires that political matter broadcast by a person other than a political party should state and record in word images on screen (if using television):
- the name of the person authorising the broadcast, and
- the town, city or suburb in which the person lives or, if the person is a corporation or association, in which the principal office is situated.
The required particulars must be broadcast in the same language as the political matter.
Internet advertising, including using social media e.g. Facebook and Twitter must carry the name and address of the authoriser.
Electronic media blackout
Under Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act, which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), there is an election advertising blackout on all electronic media from midnight on the Wednesday before polling day to the end of polling on the Saturday. The three-day blackout provides a ‘cooling off’ period in the lead up to polling day, during which political parties, candidates and others are no longer able to purchase time on television and radio to broadcast political advertising.
Review of election advertisements broadcast by commercial television stations
ACMA reviews election advertisements prior to broadcast by commercial television stations for the purpose of:
- classifying the advertisement under the commercial television industry code of practice
- ensuring the advertisement includes the authorisation tag required by the Broadcasting Services Act (clause 4 of Part 2 of Schedule 2) and complies with other requirements on broadcasters under applicable electoral acts (Commonwealth, State or Territory), and
- protecting broadcasters from liability for publishing defamatory material.
See information sheet on broadcasting and communication of political and election matter available at www.acma.gov.au. For further information contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority (PO Box Q500, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney,NSW, 1230. Telephone: (02) 9334 7700.
Headings of advertisements in newspapers
A newspaper means a newspaper published or distributed in the Territory.
The proprietor of a newspaper MUST ensure the word ‘advertisement’ is printed as a headline, in letters not smaller than 10 point, to the advertisement.
- an article or paragraph containing electoral matter, or
- a report of a speech of a candidate in an election.
Electoral articles to be signed or state particulars of author
A person must not distribute a circular, pamphlet or handbill containing an electoral article unless:
- the article is signed by the author, or
- the true name and address of the author is stated at the end of the article.
The proprietor of a newspaper must also ensure an electoral article published in a newspaper contains the true name and address of the author at the end of the article.
Address of the author of an electoral article means:
- if the author is the registered officer of the registered party - the party’s address, or
- if the author is the proprietor of a newspaper or an employee of the proprietor of a newspaper - the proprietors business address, or
- otherwise - the street name (if any) and locality of the authors residence.
Electoral article means an article, report, letter or other matter, or part of an article, report, letter or other matter, commenting on a candidate or political party or the issues being submitted to, or otherwise before, the electors of an election.
Exemptions for distribution of electoral articles
Unless the electoral article includes a representation of a ballot paper, an exemption to sign or state the particulars of the author applies on any of the following items:
- a letter from a MLA, or a press release published by or for a MLA that includes the name of the MLA and an indication that person is an MLA.
- an annual report required under the Act or another publication of an agency, and
- a business visiting card that promotes the candidacy of a person in an election.
An agency publication does not include a publication that is published for the first time within 6 months immediately before a general election if the publication includes a picture of a MLA.
Canvassing for votes etc. near a polling place
Canvassing for votes within 100 metres of the entrance to a polling place is not allowed at Legislative Assembly elections. The 10 metre exclusion zone for canvassing for votes at Local Government elections remains.
Badges, emblems etc. in polling places
A person must not wear or display in a polling place a badge, emblem, poster or other thing associated with a political party or candidate.
Exhibition of electoral matter in polling places
A person MUST not exhibit in a polling place a card or paper containing electoral matter.
Check with council policies and guidelines when determining where to place campaign material to best effect and be mindful of safety, size and content. Permission from building and/or property owners before placing signage is recommended.