Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie is set to introduce a private members bill to the federal parliament, which is designed to allow individuals to opt out of unsolicited communications like text messages from politicians and political parties.
The bill has been brought forward after thousands of Australians recently received unsolicited, spam text messages from crossbench MP Craig Kelly.
“Unfortunately, it is legal and that’s because politicians are exempt from the Spam Act,” Rebekha Sharkie told Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast on Monday.
“It’s to provide people with an opportunity to opt out. You can still receive them if you want to but if you don’t want to, you can stop them from contacting your phone.”
Sharkie’s private members bill will amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Spam Act. Politicians are currently exempt from the Spam Act, which prohibits people from trying to sell things through unsolicited electronic communications.
Sharkie says the bill would require political parties and candidates to include an unsubscribe function with all unsolicited electronic communication that contains electoral content. It mirrors a private members bill that was introduced by her Centre Alliance colleague Senator Stirling Griff back in 2019, with a slight tweak so it doesn’t contain the ‘charity call’ provisions.
“This won’t stop that initial text message and people can continue to receive communication that way from a member of parliament or a political party if they chose to do so. But at the moment, people have no way of opting out,” she said.
It comes after the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) received over 4,000 complaints after the recent round of political text messages that were endorsed by Craig Kelly.
“Many people said to me ‘Rebekha, make it stop. I don’t want to hear from them that way’,” she said.
“Unlike communicating with people through social media or traditional ways, through newspapers or indeed on radio, you have a way to switch off. But when it’s on your phone you don’t.”
“If politicians and political parties respect the Australian community, I think they would provide them with this ability to say thanks but no thanks.”