Robocalls are driving Aussie voters crazy.
Robocalls are driving Aussie voters crazy.

Tactic driving Aussie voters crazy

POLITICAL parties are being told to hang up their strategies for robocalls, the automated telephone spiels from election campaigners.

Rather than capturing the support of those on the other end of the line, they are starting to irritate and anger voters, whose dinners and other family routines are disrupted by them.

It's political junk mail via the telephone and is adding to discontent among voters already unhappy with their political options and ready to disconnect from them.

The anti-robocall message is particularly strong in the Queensland electorate of Longman, one of the five seats to hold by-elections on July 28.

The intensity of the campaigns by Labor, the Liberals and One Nation has meant the phones of electors have been regularly ringing. When answered, a disembodied recorded voice gives voting advice and then hangs up, with no actual exchange with the person at the other end.

So far, the people of Longman have heard Labor criticise Pauline Hanson, Pauline Hanson attack major parties by urging voters - with a stark lack of originality - to "keep the bastards honest", and Mark Latham criticise Mr Shorten and all the major parties.

And reports from the Longman frontline say the voters have not been impressed by their phone lines being co-opted for campaigning.

There is a growing acceptance among campaigners that robocalls themselves don't work, but there is a benefit from news reports on them and their contents.

In the United States, robocalls are considered pests and frequently illegal and used by scammers.

There were 3.5 billion of them in June, according to a calculation by the US Federal Trade Commission, while YouMail's RoboCall Index estimate was 4.1 billion.

A growing industry is the provision of apps to block them while financial services and retail companies are lobbying government to make it easier to send out mass, computerised telephone calls and texts.

The most notorious Australian robocalls were made during the 2016 election - the so-called Mediscare calls.

Labor's election campaign had been based on claims the Coalition wanted to privatise Medicare, and it was highly effective.

And in the final days of the election campaign, Labor unleashed a salvo of text messages to voters reinforcing the claim in a move Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called "an extraordinary act of dishonesty".

The reaction to the calls brought about a rule change from March. Robocalls are now covered by the same restrictions as political advertising on radio, TV, newspapers and elsewhere.

Political parties now have to authorise bulk computerised calls and texts, which is why Mark Latham's attack on Bill Shorten was revealed as a message produced by Pauline Hanson's One Nation.