Retired judge John Robertson (Photo: ICEO)

December 4, 2019

The Local Government Association of Queensland is funding an independent fact-checking watchdog in a bid to expose fake news in the lead-up to the March Council elections.

The Independent Council Election Observer (ICEO) will operate at arm’s length from the LGAQ via a service company owned by the senior partners of a Brisbane law firm.

The ICEO will be led by retired District Court and Planning and Environment Court Judge John Robertson.

Candidates for councillor and mayor can lodge complaints with the ICEO but the organisation will also start its own inquiries.

It will fact-check claims and publish its findings on its website and social media platforms.

It hopes to publish all findings within days of complaints being lodged.

It will review claims of false or deceptive campaign material, including claims made in public speeches and posted on social media sites.

“Our aim is to promote truth, accuracy and a level playing field in the council elections, to give voters more confidence and certainty around the claims that are made,” Mr Robertson said.

Mr Robertson urged candidates to use the ICEO to keep each other in check.

“More than 1500 candidates across 77 councils are expected to stand in the March elections, so we’re expecting to be extremely busy,” he said.

“And we’re hoping many of those requests come from candidates in regional and rural areas.

“Voters will be able to access true, accurate information through the ICEO’s published reviews, enhancing the democratic process of the election.”

Mr Robertson said the ICEO would work within the framework for existing agencies including the Electoral Commission, the Office of the Independent Assessor and the Crime and Corruption Commission.

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