The New Yes Campaign Ad That Peddles Wild Disinformation

29 September 2023

3.2 MINS

Albanese Cabinet ministers are spreading disinformation, sharing a Yes Campaign ad falsely claiming Indigenous Australians have been ignored for 250 years. Where are the fact-checkers when you need them?

Someone tell the hand-wringing bureaucrats paid to whine endlessly about misinformation and disinformation about the new Yes campaign ad. 

Unveiled on Tuesday night, the 30-second television commercial tells a fib that might just take out top spot for the biggest lie of the referendum debate thus far.

Worst of all, Yes23, the organisation behind the ad, plans on spending $20 million to broadcast their blatant disinformation into living rooms all over the country.

The commercial begins with a montage of scenes depicting the lives of ordinary Australians, and explains:

Listening works. Teams listen to their coaches. Children listen to their parents, well, some of the time. When we listen, we understand. When we understand, we can help.

Then comes the bold-faced fib:

But for the last 250 years we haven’t listened to the people who have been here for 65,000. It’s time we did.

Fact-Checking the Yes Campaign’s Disinformation

It’s a sad truth that Australia treated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders unjustly by not listening to them — by excluding them from the political process — for far too long.

There were exceptions to this rule. In South Australia, for instance, Aboriginal men were given the right to vote with the passing of the state’s Constitution in 1856. That right was extended to women, including Aboriginal women, in 1895.

A patchwork of laws across the other states and territories variously restricted — and eventually allowed — Indigenous Australians access to the ballot box and to political office.

Finally, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1962 gave all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander the right vote in federal elections. All remaining political inequalities were subsequently removed under the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Act 1983.

Yes, some of these reforms were far too slow in coming. But to claim — in 2023 — that “for the last 250 years we haven’t listened to” Indigenous Australians is a breathtaking fabrication of history.

The claim doesn’t just unfairly accuse non-Indigenous Australians of indifference. It also insults the intelligence of Indigenous Australians who know better, while stoking unwarranted anger for those who don’t.

Further alienation is the last thing Australia’s Indigenous people need.

Disinformation No Matter Which Way You Dice It

In case the Yes23 commercial was referring to issues beyond just the political rights of Indigenous Australians, let’s zoom out.

Today, there are hundreds of native title bodies, dozens of land councils, and over 120 other Indigenous agencies that advise Australian governments on issues affecting Indigenous people.

Representing all of these voices in unison is the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which reports directly to the executive branch of government: the Prime Minister’s Cabinet.

In 2008, history was made with the National Apology, in which the Australian Government issued a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for the forcible removal of Indigenous children by its agencies.

In 2014, the new Australian Curriculum was launched, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures as one of its three “cross-curriculum priorities” — that is, topics that must inform every school subject. This has ensured Indigenous issues are front and centre for all Aussie school kids for the last decade.

Every year, no fewer than a dozen significant Indigenous dates are marked on Australia’s calendar and commemorated in various ways.

Today, Australia has 11 Indigenous members of parliament in Canberra, making Indigenous “voices” statistically overrepresented on Capital Hill (that is, if we assume people can only be represented by those of their own race).

Even after all of these developments, Yes23 maintains that “for the last 250 years we haven’t listened to” Indigenous Australians.

Why the lie? And why no pushback against the disinformation from the powers that be?

Where Are the Fact Checkers When You Need Them?

The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation was published in February 2021. It is a voluntary code, overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), whose aim is “to provide safeguards against harms from the spread of disinformation and misinformation on digital platforms”.

According to the code, misinformation is digital content “that is verifiably false or misleading or deceptive”. “Some misinformation is deliberately spread — this is called disinformation,” ACMA further explains.

The Albanese Government infamously hopes to etch such a code into law through its deeply unpopular, proposed Misinformation Bill.

For proof that Labor’s attempt to combat disinformation and misinformation is little more than a cynical ploy to silence political dissent, look no further than their response to the Yes campaign’s latest ad.

If the Albanese Government was serious about stopping the spread of disinformation, they would demand the removal of the latest Yes23 commercial.

Instead, Albanese Cabinet members like Linda Burney and Tanya Plibersek are reposting the ad, proudly disseminating disinformation — deliberately false, misleading and deceptive claims — to hundreds of thousands of users online.

Will ACMA act? Where are RMIT ABC Fact Check, AAP FactCheck or AFP Fact Check when you need them? Will anyone be held to account?

We’ll wait.

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  1. Pearl Miller 29 September 2023 at 8:10 am - Reply

    God PLEASE help the people WAKE UP!!!

  2. John 29 September 2023 at 8:32 am - Reply

    “Will ACMA act?” – No.

    “Where are RMIT ABC Fact Check, AAP FactCheck or AFP Fact Check when you need them? Will anyone be held to account?” – In the tank for Yes23.

  3. Warwick Marsh 30 September 2023 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Very true but very sad!!!!!

  4. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 3 October 2023 at 9:29 am - Reply

    In totalitarian countries there is only one “Truth ” (eg Putin’s and Xi’s ), no dissent is allowed and religion is persecuted or under the control of the State which promotes leaders and ideology favourable to the regime. Unless we resist now by voting “No ” to “The Voice” it is the beginning of the end of Australia’s democracy ie of our freedoms with this proposed Misinformation Law.

  5. Constantine Michailidis 3 October 2023 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    To attempt to change something as valuable as our Constitution on the basis of such lies is unconscionable!

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