The Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023 is a dangerous proposal, and the Australian Christians puts on record its strong opposition to the bill.

The enhanced powers the proposed bill would grant the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would silence great swathes of the Australian population who hold social views that are often maligned as ‘misinformation’ by politicians, commentators, community leaders and media figures.

The Australian Christians is a Christian political party with express pro-life and pro-family values, and a fundamental belief in religious freedom. We support laws that protect mothers and babies,  promote adoption as an alternative, and support families and children. We support the right of individuals, schools and organisations to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and we oppose laws and regulations that restrict religious expression.

We believe our faith calls us to be active and engaged in the political process. We believe in the importance of prayer, and that our faith calls us to be agents of change to those around us.

We are aware that holding to these values puts us directly in the firing line of the proposed ‘Misinformation Bill’. We do not want to see Australia ban from the digital public square the traditional Christian values that built our nation.

In light of this, we express in the strongest possible terms our concern of the proposed legislation.

Who Defines Misinformation?

Terms like ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ are very subjective. They are often used by political actors to malign and silence the ideas of their opponents. So will it be if the ‘Misinformation Bill’ is passed into law.

According to the proposed bill, something constitutes misinformation if “the provision of the content on the digital service is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to serious harm.”

Already the vagueness of the language is concerning. How will “reasonably likely” be determined? What does “contribute to” mean? Who defines “serious” harm, as opposed to minimal or moderate harm?

Nothing in the proposed bill speaks to these vital questions.

What is ‘misinformation’ to a secular government bureaucrat might be a perfectly acceptable moral viewpoint or a self-evident fact for an everyday Australian Christian.

Why should Christians be punished for simply believing what Christians have believed for thousands of years — like the Bible’s teaching that there are only two genders, that only a man and a woman can marry, or that people of every ethnicity have equal standing and should not be divided into categories of oppressor and oppressed?

We have even seen that what constitutes ‘misinformation’ can change very quickly. In just a matter of years, views on transgenderism, climate panic and even free speech have shifted rapidly. People who will be censored today for holding certain views on these subjects might, in five years time, be vindicated — and therefore shown to have been wrongly censored in the first place. It is troubling to think that flaky, relativistic social mores would be enforced as truth and used to silence dissent.

In the end, who will decide what is true and what is ‘misinformation’? Will it be the political party in power at the time? The majority of Australia’s citizens? Corporate boards? Global entities like the United Nations, the World Health Organisation or the World Economic Forum?

None of these questions are answered in the proposed bill. Australians are being asked to sign a blank cheque: to surrender their freedom of speech online to unknown, unseen and undefined forces.

In essence, this draft bill foresees a future that departs from the democratic principles that have shaped modern Australia, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Instead, it empowers an autocratic system that turns the State against its citizens. Everyone errs.

It is crucial to acknowledge that no one possesses all-encompassing information or unwavering certainty. No entity, including ACMA, has a monopoly on truth. This fact underscores the importance of preventing ACMA from acquiring the proposed powers.

It is essential that everyday individuals are not silenced simply for dissenting with the State. Holding the Commonwealth accountable to its citizens remains paramount. Preserving freedom of speech must be a non-negotiable priority. Our opposition to this legislation is clear.

In its submission, Australian Christians WA cautioned against the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023.

Maryka Groenewald

State Director

Australian Christians

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