AEC received 711 complaints about same sex marriage campaign

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has received 711 complaints about alleged law breaches during the same sex marriage campaign, according to figures obtained by this blog.

More than 300 of the complaints relate to unsolicited text messages sent by the Yes campaign. At least 100 others were about the sky writing stunts organised by No campaigners.

The surprisingly high number of formal complaints to the AEC is revealed as the Bill to pass same sex marriage into law enters its final stages in Parliament.

Some MPs and Senators – including the Prime Minister – have used that debate to pour praise on the survey as a “unifying” moment for the country.

Former PM Tony Abbott claimed in a speech on Monday that “from where I stood, there was little rancour, no hysteria and no abuse” during the survey campaign.

Escalated for further investigation

198 of the alleged breaches were subsequently escalated to the AEC’s Chief Legal Officer for further consideration – including one accusation of bribery.

The vast majority of those sent for further investigation were for what the AEC called ‘authorisation’ issues with 154 complaints (74% of all those escalated). A further 29 related to allegations of ‘misleading’ information. Other reasons were ‘privacy’ (9) and ‘vilification’ (9), plus six categorised as ‘other’.

Breakdown: Complaints escalated to AEC Chief Legal Officer

ssm-complaints-aec-chart

Notes: Total does not add to 198 “because some complaints raised more than one issue”. Categories are defined by the AEC. No breakdown is available for all 711 complaints, just those escalated to the Chief Legal Officer.

The complaints relate to alleged breaches of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017which was introduced specifically to regulate conduct during the survey period. The figures were obtained following a Freedom of Information request to the AEC by this blog.

No indication is given about how many cases are still being investigated by the AEC.

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