back to article Draconian new electoral laws for South Australia?

South Australians were this week up in arms at the propsect of a $5000 fine for posting anonymous comment online in respect of an upcoming state election. Posters were quick to condemn this as unprecedented state censorship. The new Australian law came into force on January 6, and makes it an offence for anyone to comment …


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  1. JWS


    It's just like prison, oh wait...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There you have it.

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear now law in south australia.

  3. SuperTim
    Black Helicopters


    How on earth can they possibly prove that the post left by "Anonymous Coward" is under a pseudonym and not Noel's amusingly named grandson?

    Also, if you changed your name to A.Noymous, that would screw the whole thing up!

    PS, i am not commenting on any election, Oz or otherwise, so dont send the choppers in....

  4. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Strewth Bruce, they want your short & curlies

    Why has Australia become the poster child of dumb governments wanting to monitor and control all aspects of communications? The UK has been going downhill badly under NuLabour but this is really taking the piss.

    What have that government got to hide that they are so worried by anonymous comments?

    1. Rattus Rattus


      our government for many years now, both Labor and Liberal (the centre-right party and the hard right loonies) have been full of control freaks. Our only hope of freedom now lies with the minor parties and independants.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    And thus it comes...

    Why do i get the feeling that David "The rule of law is for wusses" Blunkett is looking at this and thinking, wow, what great idea it is.

  6. Iggle Piggle

    Did the...

    ... South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson decide to also post his postcode too? What happens if I post a post that is something like. An anonymous South Australian Attorney-General is alleged to have said "blah blah blah no we are not gagging anyone blah blah upcoming election blah".

  7. Donald Freeman

    Breathtakingly frightening

    That government has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you need to be afraid. Those legally posted comments w/name and address will only be legal until they aren't. Then we have a nice record of who the anti-government forces are.

  8. Michael Shaw

    Surely theres a snag...

    Can AnarKID please report to thhe local court and pay your $5,000 fine, as we don't know where to send the warrant to...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    interesting idea.

    The reg should think about doing the same. (pretends not to notice his AC tick)

    Can't see the issue myself.

    When I signed up to the reg for example I used my real name and a work email address. If required the reg could ID me if I were to post libel or similar.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Say what you like... long as you know we can find you.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Big Brother

    Vigilantes' charter

    How stupid do you have to be to believe that posting your address next to a (quite possibly) controversial opinion does not inhibit freedom of speech?

    Answers, on a ballot paper, to "South Australia".

  12. Steven Jones

    Enforcability, extra-territoriality etc.

    So does this law apply to everybody or just Australian nationals and residents? It's going to be just a trifle difficult to enforce this one. Of course this is part of a slippery slope - the right to anonymity could be abolished for much wider subject areas.

    1. Malcolm Boura 2

      Extra territorial defence

      But posting from overseas will not save you:

      a) The Great Australian Firewall will block it (today China, tomorrow the word)

      b) They will prosecute anyway (today the USA, tomorrow the world)

      c) The UK government will extradite you without asking why (today the USA, tomorrow the world)

      d) How long before the Great UK Firewall blocks the outgoing traffic because Australia asked them to?

      Actually, more likely than a UK firewall, is a snoop wall. It will be backed up with horrendously vague catch all legislation designed to terrify everyone into playing so safe that nothing worthwhile is said. You will of course have a right of appeal, but only if you don't have a clean record to risk losing and only if you have lots of money. ie drugs dealers and such like can defend themselves but not anyone else.

  13. Alexander Hanff 1

    Law has reportedly been repealed

    This article appears to be a little out of date. The law was reportedly repealed around lunch time GMT yesterday according to a member of the Australian press whom I contacted yesterday afternoon.

  14. Cynical Observer


    There must be some really interesting jurisdictional issues associated with this

    Someone in Oz commenting via Australian site - You're nicked my son!

    Someone in Oz via Overseas Site.... Are the powers that be going to stop such sites (eg FacelessBook) at the Great Barrier Firewall?

    Someone overseas commenting via an Australian site?

    Some one overseas commenting via an overseas site.... Oh Bugger! Is that me :-)

    They really haven't thought this one through - have they? To use an Australian term - The Duffers!

  15. LinkOfHyrule

    F***ing hell!

    I normally only make joke comments on this site but I'm being serious for once in this instance.

    This is totally unbelievable. I thought Australia was a free country. This is the last straw as far as I'm concerned. This along with all the other recent weird laws regarding cartoons and small breasts means that personally I now consider that country to no longer be a free state, the place sounds like its rapidly turning into some sort of '1984' style hell hole. I know here in blighty things can be a bit 'communist police state' at times but Oz are just taking the p*** now!

    By the way, what happens if I, as a UK citizen post an anon comment on a Australian website regarding this election? Will they want to extradite me for nobbling votes or something? FU##ERS!

  16. Anonymous Coward


    The upcoming state election is corrupt!

    Fine me $5000 bitches

  17. Anonymous Coward

    AC - obviously

    There is some logic behind this, but why not just proxy through a "friendly" nation like China?

  18. Cameron Colley

    Wow, you have to hand it to them!

    The Aussie government are doing a great job of making the scum we have in the UK look like harmless lovers of freedom. Heck, even China must be looking to them in admiration.

    Reminds me to add Australia to the list of oppressive countries to avoid at all cost.

  19. Stratman


    The STASI would be proud.

    No wonder any Aussie who can find his own backside is over here.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wake Up Call

    it is an issue for whistle-blowers

    it is an issue for privacy

    It is an issue for IDENTITY THEFT

    It is a MIND CONTROL TOOL to CONTROL and STEER the POPULATION and it sounds like Australia has drawn the short straw as the NWO'S first TESTBED for ACCEPTANCE

    Why is it people don't like to talk about mind control? Religion? Apathy? Uninformed? Powerlessness? I think if you could break this barrier, the people would rise up against such exploited power by officials.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      oh dear..

      and you were doing so well until you started mythering on about a secret cabal of aliens running the world.

      So just one question, did you stop taking the pills or has your tinfoil hat fallen off again?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        I suggest...

        ... that the tin foil hat got eaten and the pills are sitting on the head.

  21. RaYvA


    One is free to verbalise ones concerns regarding either the parties per se, their non agendas, or one's detest of the Electoral Commission's capricious approach to implementing compulsary voting laws, which btw are tantamount to carpet bombing blighty in WWI, to an off shore server (I hope!?!?) cause my postcode wouldn't matter then would it??

    PS: I dont live in South Australia!!! (Oh, but neither does the Electoral Commission)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    as it happens, you can't have my name and postcode, no

    oh my goodness. but surely this will not be freedom of political communication secured by the (fantastically unambitious) federal constitution.

    It's understandable that Premier Mike Rann of the Labor (right spelling) Party doesn't want a lot of scurrilous tittle-tattle on the internet affecting politicians' election performance. After all, that was how his definitely-not-a-former-mistress-like-she-claims "friend" Michelle Chantelois got so much unjustified publicity last week after she dropped off her lie detector test results today: If it weren't for the internet, no-one would ever develop unfair suspicions about Rann's integrity. It's quite appropriate that anonymous cowards like me shouldn't comment on the Labor Party's prospects in the March 20 elections...hope they get pounded.

    If anyone's interested, this is the relevant law, s116 of the Electoral Act (1985) SA:

    116—Published material to identify person responsible for political content

    (1) A person must not, during an election period, publish material consisting of, or

    containing a commentary on, any candidate or political party, or the issues being

    submitted to electors, in written form, in a journal published in electronic form on the

    Internet or by radio or television or broadcast on the Internet, unless the material or

    the programme in which the material is presented contains a statement of the name

    and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the

    publication of the material.

    Maximum penalty:

    (a) if the offender is a natural person—$1 250;

    (b) if the offender is a body corporate—$5 000.

    (2) This section does not apply to—

    (a) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form

    on the Internet) of a leading article;

    (b) the publication of a report of a meeting that does not contain any comment

    (other than comment made by a speaker at the meeting) on any candidate, or

    political party, or the issues being submitted to electors;

    (c) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form

    on the Internet) of an article, letter, report or other matter if—

    (i) the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who

    takes responsibility for the publication of the material is provided to

    the publisher of the journal and retained by the publisher for a period

    of 6 months after the end of the election period; and

    (ii) the journal contains a statement of the name and postcode of the

    person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material;

    (ca) the publication of a letter (otherwise than as described in paragraph (c)) that

    contains the name and address (not being a post office box) of the author of

    the letter;

    (d) a news service or a current affairs programme on radio or television or

    broadcast on the Internet;

    (e) any other prescribed material or class of material.

    (3) In this section—

    journal means a newspaper, magazine or other periodical.

  23. Sir Runcible Spoon


    Is it also now illegal to vote anonymously in Oz?

    Man, this place is seriously off 'my places to visit before I die' list.

  24. Colin Guthrie

    Article fail!

    Public outcry and perhaps a small dose of common sense means this "law" has already been repealed (or at least the promise to repeal retrospectively)

    This was all known at the time of your article was published.....

    Now do I post this scathing comment on El Reg's journalistic integrity under AC..... :p

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      ...after the horse has bolted.

      Yes, the law will be repealed - actually giving himself a bollocking....

      ...but read it again, it will only be repealed AFTER the local elections, thereby, he has got his way. What's to say come the next election a similar law won't come into force again, quelling dissent, getting the [election] result required then repealing again...and again and again.

      Dumb ass politicians.

  25. breakfast
    Big Brother

    So how do you keep the lobby groups under control?

    Yes, it's a pretty tough rule, but if you have political lobby groups or bent politicians wanting to smear an opponent or to otherwise skew an election using online methods and hiding behind their own anonymity, how do you prevent that?

    1. MinionZero
      Big Brother

      @"how do you prevent that?"

      You can't prevent it, anymore than you can't prevent politicians manipulating people. (But you can't also assume that just because the main parties are the only ones allowed to speak, that what they say will then be the whole unedited truth of the matter).

      Freedom of speech is the only way to provide any feedback into politics. Without freedom of speech, all the parties are free to act collectively so they can dictate their overall common will to us. (They obviously have differences between parties but they also have some core similar goals. Its the similar goals we need to be free to speak out against. That is how society works to try to prevent the manipulation and abuses of power of the politicians).

      Freedom of speech is also the only way the "none of the above" views can be heard, because the parties don't want to represent these views.

      You can laugh at freedom of speech if you wish, and even consider it unimportant if you like, but people have died to protect freedom of speech throughout history, for very good reasons. Also the way the politicians are backing down now about this law change is because of freedom of Speech. Without freedom of speech they would have continued to dictate their *collective* will to silence everyone but them to be able to speak before an election.

      1. breakfast

        Wasn't about freedom of speech was it?

        This is surely about the freedom of *Anoynymous* speech isn't it?

        Anyone can say what they like as long as they identify themselves, if I read the article correctly. So "speech" in the literal sense is protected, direct participation is protected, AC punditry, however is not. Of course, historically it has been the ACs who published the pamphlets and forced a lot of issues out into the open, but these days there seem to be fewer campaigners on any kind of ethical basis and more corporate lobby groups pushing commercial interests. I would say that in modern societies those are probably the single greatest threat to democracy.

  26. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    Another day and another Orwellian move by the political control freak elite...

    Anyone publishing their real name and postcode on a web site is then wide open to any quiet punishment the government wants to make.

    Plus what is to stop some people using other people's name and postcode to get them into trouble?

    Also it wouldn't take much effort for a government to pay some people to troll the most popular web sites, to then identify and record anyone who is a political opponent and punish the most frequent and vocal opponents. (Politics is won or lost by herding people, so they simply need to make life difficult for very vocal opponents, who are at risk of getting heard on popular web sites. After all its the power hungry politicians who want to do the herding and not let anyone else have a chance to speak out against them).

    Over here these days, if you did publish your real name and postcode on a web site you could quietly find your name on the domestic extremist database just for legally protesting against the government. (Taking a photo of the police is enough to end up on the database). After that, you wouldn't have any freedom, liberty or privacy anywhere near any police who would use that *legally unofficial label* on their database as a reason to stop, search and generally abuse anyone they find. I've heard of cars with familes in being pulled over, told to get out and the car searched in detail, simply because this domestic extremist(tm) label has come up on their police in car computer.

    Also if you did publish your real name and postcode on a web site, you would suffer massive amounts of endless snail mail spam as punishment for speaking out at all.

    Also historically the original reason votes were made secret during elections, was to prevent the state taking action to punish anyone who voted against them. Now they want to openly see who is against them by other means.

    The more I see of the underhanded, two faced, lying, greedy, Narcissist, Machiavellian nature of politicians, the more angry I'm getting with them all, regardless of which party they are in and regardless of which country they are in. So many of them are highlighting themselves as the utter scum of every society with their relentless lying, manipulating and bullying their way into power over people.

    How long before Lord Sith Mandleson tries to push through a similar law in the UK ready for the election. :(

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Details about Australian postcodes

    Whilst I seem to be going against the flow of righteous outrage here,

    1) Any paper-based material published about an election in Australia - posters, pamphlets or letters to the editor in newspaper - has always been required to have a full name and address of the author or agent. So this legislation appears to be extending this to electronic forums.

    2) Australian postcodes are not like UK ones, they cover quite large areas, a few square miles at a minimum in a city. So requiring postcodes rather than full addresses on electronic postings is not as big a deal as it would be for UK postcodes. It is arguably sufficient to make the poster legally identifiable and responsible but does not create a significant risk of id theft, etc...

    My belief on the requirement of identification has been to ensure candidates do not exceed electioneering cost caps, and to prevent dirty tricks of people publishing statements as though they are from other candidates or supporters. I understand the UK election laws have similar requirements for similar reasons.

  28. Ralphe Neill
    Big Brother

    They've backed down!

    The South Australian government has backed down on this. The law is in effect but will not be enforced (they promise) and will be repealed immediately after the election (they promise).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Bill Smith 5048 (just in case it isn't repealed)

      AG Michael Atkinson has promised to retrospectively repeal the laws, after the election. But what if he doesn't win? Or what if he isn't made AG after the election? There was bipartisan support for this law, so voting for the other mob in protest may see the return of enforcement of this law!

      Be safe, post your real name and postcode on this forum!

      Ok, so that's not really my postcode, or my name ... come get me!

  29. Scott 26
    Big Brother

    Also in NZ

    We've had this in NZ since the last election......

    Political commentary/billboards/etc must be signed by a real name etc....


    fuckers, the lot of them.

  30. Mark 65


    This affects South Australia, i.e. it is a State not Federal law so those prattling on about an Orwellian Australia are a little wide of the mark (on this issue only as there are others that apply moreso). Not sure how it would go if someone from Darwin were to comment on a site about the South Australian elections - you could hardly claim they new whether or not the site was hosted in SA or not - and I'm not sure how enforceable the law would be across state boundaries. I think the NT police probably couldn't give a toss.

    Australia is a bit like the USA in that, as a federation of states, you can have bullshit laws enforced at multiple levels with crackpot king of the hill state politicians trying to make a name for themselves followed by some Federal tit like Conroy (had to mention the prick) trying to one-up them with his equally stupid intentions. It also leads to disingenuous statements like "Australia is running a budgetary surplus" whilst most State Governments are virtually bankrupt - NSW we're looking at you.

  31. Adrian Esdaile

    What are they hiding?

    "What have that government got to hide that they are so worried by anonymous comments?"

    Um, let's see... maybe the fact they they are a bunch of corrupt fat slugs who would find it difficult to run a bath, let alone a piss-up in a brewery. Our government makes me ashamed to be Australian. Picture a herd of slimy, greasy pigs, accompanied by their wealthy political-donation providing developer and organised criminal friends, with their snouts and heads stuck deep, deep into the trough of Australian taxpayer's money. Google 'Tim Johnson'. Google 'Firepower'. Google 'AusTrade'. Collins-class subs that don't work, built by the massive pork-barrel cash-skimming dockyards in South Australia (coincidence! honest!). A telecommunications system designed by the dodgiest, slimiest Quango (Telstra) that makes "Yes, Minister" look like a kids show. Fibre along the streets, connected to your house by quadruple-pair-gained copper. What a joke! Housing development not getting through? Just bribe, er, MAKE A DONATION to your state planning minister! We are so corrupt down here we make China look like a bunch of amateurs. A "free-trade" agreement with the US that means you cannot buy a fucking DISHCLOTH online from the USA due export restrictions! How does that work? Our government makes the UK's fustercluck look downright professional and progressive! Vizzini was right - we are peopled entirely by criminals. For that matter, we are descended from criminals who were so stupid they got caught stealing apples for the most part!

    Adrian Esdaile, 2065 because thats the freakin LAW down here now.

  32. Steen Hive

    Anyone up for it?

    Try to find a jurisdiction where it isn't outright illegal* to do so and spraying electioneering quotes by these vicious little wankers all over the internet and including their names, home addresses, telephone numbers, car registrations, inside-leg measurements and favourite bondage gear? Somebody has to take a stand sometime and shove their complete disregard for personal privacy back down their throats.

    *of course one would never promote illegal behaviour, would one?

  33. Neeblor

    Get used to it

    Censorship in Australia is not going to stop there... I should have voted for the giant douche, not the turd sandwich

  34. rasmus petersen

    Overseas ?

    - What overseas, that will all be caught in the great Firewall, freeing the Oz voter from the burden of reading something the the .gov does not agree with

  35. adrian sietsma

    Get a grip

    These laws have applied to letters to newspapers for a long time, and not just in Australia. They are supposed to limit unfounded smear campaigns etc. It doesn't control what you say, but does introduce a degree of accountability. I'm not sure how you apply it to the internet - that's obviously what this case was about.

    posted non-anon for this one.

  36. Equitas

    Toytown Parliament

    Let's not get too carried away.

    We're talking about a tiny "parliament" in a state with a tiny population of 1.6 million, 1.2 million of whom live in Adelaide and there isn't another town of even 25,000 people in the whole state. Any other city in the world is many hours' drive away. Although the state is physically large, in many ways, it's like a tiny, isolated country. The so-called "House of Assembly" has only got 47 members and of these some 28 are Australian Labour Party. We're talking toytown politics.

  37. Glen Turner 666

    I live in Adelaide and this is my story....

    @Adrian. In Australia no law requires you to give your full name and address in Letters to the Editor. That's a newspaper policy, since it allows them to avoid the full weight of a defamation suit. Sometimes a newspaper will run an anonymous letter, as the Adelaide Advertiser did recently from a sex abuse victim commenting on her experience with sexual assault laws.

    If you distribute information which falls under the Electoral Act --- posters, advertisments, etc --- you are required to list an authorising person (who will take the blame if the material doesn't meet the requirements of the Act) and their contact address for legal notices (which is usually the PO Box of the party headquarters, as no one wants to make their home address known to the loonies at the political fringe).

    Atkinson's law is far beyond these requirements. It was originally prompted by the councils, who wanted a real live body they could take to court when cleaning up the mess of posters and so on left after an election. But the law went well beyond this, something that wasn't at all recognised when voted on in Parliament (so you're right, no one does read the Bills).

    The requirement was to attach your full name and postcode to all politically-related comment made after an election is called. Now, a full name and postcode is basically an address: you have to live close to your family or have a common last name for this to be otherwise. I have a reasonably common name and live in a large postcode, there are five entries in the phone book. A nutter would be motivated to visit all five, as happened when National Action (ie: a Neo-Nazi political party) went looking for a letter writer in an Adelaide seaside suburb in the 1980s.

    Atkinson's beef is basically with the comments in the online Adelaide Advertiser ("AdelaideNow"). These are somewhat damaging to the government, as the commenters take great delight in puncturing the government's spin. More and more the government can't get clear air in the news cycle, as the issues with their story have been called out within minutes. The Advertiser picks the best comments and runs them the next day in the rag. But the real damage is done on the TV news, as the reporters there have a simple source of difficulties/inconsistencies/real world counterexamples, etc. So the government doesn't get a free kick in the evening news from an announcement like they used to.

    The government, and Atkinson in particular, are convinced that the AdelaideNow commenters are too professional, too slick, too fast not to be political operatives. Unfortunately, when Atkinson pointed out one name as patently bogus, that person appeared on the front of the next day's paper holding their drivers license. The Attorney-General without doubt defamed that person, and its never a good look to have your Attorney-General in the dock, let alone with an election due (SA has fixed terms).

    It does say something about the out-of-touch nature of the lower ranks of the SA government that they even thought that this could work. Now we've got an Attorney-General saying "ignore that law" and assuring people that won't get them into trouble, as if an A-G has the power to grant some sort of indulgence. He doesn't. He can't even pardon someone after they've been convicted. Not a good look. Reinforcing the idea that this government has different rules for the "mates". If only we had a reasonable alternative....

  38. Anonymous Coward

    It won't linger long... and BTW South Austalia was not a penal colony

    Firstly, and importantly, todays update on this law on AdelaideNow is that this section of the law will beat a hasty retreat and be repealed even before the next election.

    Secondly, I know its the world's favourite quip that Australia was settled by prisoners but get your history straight please. Only Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania were originally settled like that. The rest of the country was free settled by immigrants.

    Anyway, this isn't the first or last ill-conceived government decision which is why I've taken my family out of the country. Voted with my feet.

    1. Mark 65

      Don't forget Queensland

      I'm pretty certain that Kangaroo point in Brisbane was a penal colony by virtue of the fact it was easy to prevent escape as 3 sides face water via sheet cliff faces although I'm pretty sure Redcliffe was settled as a penal colony before that and constituted the first settlement of that state (which gained independence from NSW around 1859 or so)

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