About the ICEO
An Australian-first initiative, the ICEO aims to promote truth and accuracy in campaigning in the lead up to Queensland’s 2020 local government elections so the voting public can be more confident they have not been misled by fake news and false information before casting their vote.
Operating from December 2, 2019 until election day, March 28, 2020, the Observer will accept written requests from all councillor and mayoral candidates, recontesting and aspiring, and councils in every local government area, including the City of Brisbane, to fact check allegations and other material posted by candidates on social media or elsewhere which may be false and misleading. These may relate to:
- claims ranging from inappropriate behaviour to misconduct or corruption made by or against individual candidates by their opponents or other persons; or
- campaign claims and promises which may be false and misleading.
Click on the headings below for more information:
Queensland’s 2016 local government elections were remarkable for the number, nature and extent of attacks on individuals and councils, with social media such as Facebook and Twitter providing, for the first time, multiple platforms on which all sorts of allegations against individuals and councils were made. Many went unchallenged with the undesirable result many voters may have been misled about candidates’ suitability for office and policies.
Following the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra, significant reforms have been made to local government election laws. Despite this, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) remained concerned, in particular, about the impact of social media on election outcomes and in 2017 explored whether an independent fact checking unit could function to bolster truth and accuracy in campaigning. The ICEO was conceived.
While the ICEO is funded by the LGAQ it is operating independently from it. Respected retired District Court Judge John Robertson, whose judicial experience includes 17 years as a member of the Planning and Environment Court, is heading the Observer.
The Electoral Commission of Queensland, the Crime and Corruption Commission of Queensland (CCC), the new Office of the Independent Assessor and the Department of Local Government exist to investigate serious electoral breaches or allegations of corruption and it is not the intention of the ICEO to replace or duplicate any inquiries that properly fall under the jurisdiction of those agencies. Rather, the Observer will augment the existing legislated checks and balances relating to local government elections provided by these statutory authorities, by investigating written requests from candidates about allegations made on social media and elsewhere. The requests can be made by councils, candidates for election or re-election but not, directly, by members of the public. Members of the public however may inform candidates about impugned published information, which may lead to a referral by a candidate.
The ICEO will assess the allegations using information supplied by and sought from the candidate or council making the request, the person or entity the subject of the request, and by making its own inquiries and aims to publish its response on its website and on social media, within two working days of the request being received. Response times may vary, depending on the complexity and number of requests received.
The ICEO may also proactively correct statements by candidates or others that appear on social media sites and elsewhere which it considers, after assessment and review, to be false and/or misleading.
Where necessary the Observer will quickly refer matters of concern to the appropriate statutory agency to be formally dealt with.