Political parties are expected to use the Internet to blast home their final election messages, as the Web is immune to ACMA's pre-election propaganda ban.
Political parties are usually banned from hitting the electorate with a final barrage of campaigning a few days before an election because the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) requires broadcasters to cease television and radio advertisements featuring any political content.
But a loophole exists when it comes to Internet-based advertising, which means political parties will be able to continue broadcast-style advertising over the Web until the polls close on 24 November.
In a statement released today, ACMA outlined its various responsibilities related to the "broadcasting and communication of political and election matter", and pointed out that the organisation "is not responsible for election or political matter appearing on the Internet."
"The blackout period has been in the broadcasting legislation a very long time, the principle behind it is essentially a policy matter ... it's ACMA's responsibility to implement it," an ACMA spokesperson told ZDNet Australia.
This is the first federal election in which the issue of online campaigning during the blackout period has been a significant concern. At the time of the last federal election in 2004, YouTube did not exist and the social networking boom was yet to take place.
However, various state elections held over the last year have offered a glimpse into what might unfold in the run-up to the federal election.
In the Victorian state election late last year, the Labor government posted six new ads and speeches on its Web site during the first 24 hours of the "broadcast media" blackout.
"Regulation-wise, the situation is the same now as it was three years ago ... I think what's really changed since then is the scale. But if the government or parliament are really concerned about this then it's up to them to change the legislation," the ACMA spokesperson said.
An ALP spokesperson admitted that the party will have a "substantial presence online".
"For us it's been about using as much of the technology as we could that's accessible to people ... This time round it's certainly about more than just having a Web site," the spokesperson said.
The addition of the Google election function on Google Australia has also been a significant development in online campaigning, particularly in relation to broadcast-style material, as each of the six parties holding a seat in parliament have their own YouTube channel.