Detect politicians who lie: Turnbull

A system of fact-checking should be introduced to detect politicians who tell lies, according to Coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull.

It had become easier for politicians or journalists to get away with mis-stating facts, he said on Friday.

''It is easier because there seems to be a cynical acceptance that you don't have to tell the truth,'' he told the Walkley Media conference in Canberra.

''Politicians should not tell lies … most politicians do not tell lies in the sense of consciously going up and saying, 'I'm going to say something that I know is wrong, I'm going to tell a lie', but what often happens in our discourse is that people are very loose with the facts.

''It's easy to make factual mistakes … if everyone who spoke in the public square, like politicians and journalists, were held to account with a bit more fact-checking, that would be very salutary.

''I think we need a lot more fact-checking and I think it'd keep all of us on our toes and make us all more careful.''


Mr Turnbull, a former journalist and internet entrepreneur, has 133,000 Twitter followers, whereas former prime minister Kevin Rudd has one million.

''The social media have given every citizen a megaphone of their own,'' he told the conference. His Twitter audience was ''vastly more'' than the readership of leading newspapers. ''So if you're a politician with a million followers, it's extraordinary,'' he said.

''Politicians have never had less reason to complain about the media than today because we have megaphones of our own and a capacity to respond and make our own case directly that previous generations of politicians didn't have.

''Politicians aren't trying to get into the business of journalism, the reality is that we are in the communication business.

''If a politician is putting up a video on YouTube or posting speeches or blogs on the web, that's not me trying to be a journalist again, that's me doing my job, communicating to my constituents and the Australian people generally.''

Mr Turnbull praised the style of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's now world famous speech where she labelled Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a misogynist.

''What is missing so much is authenticity … the messages that cut through are authentic ones,'' he said.

''The reason that [prime ministerial speech] had an impact was that she was angry.

''I think we all agree a lot of what she said was unfair but leaving that aside, she was angry and she was not being contrived, she was authentic.''

Mr Turnbull said the decline in profitability for commercial media outlets was an existential challenge. ''This problem has been coming down the track for a long time,'' he said. ''We talk about climate change denial - there's been business model decline denial going on in the newspaper business for a long time.''