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Poor Howard government advertising standards exposed.

Release Monday 19 November 2007

The Australian Democrats continue to be outraged at the poor standards of the Coalition on Government advertising, exposed again in the annual report of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for the year
ending June 30 2007.

"The Annual Report shows $281.3 million was spent on 'campaign' and 'non-campaign' advertising in 2006-07. A good portion of this was designed to help the Coalition retain power, rather than being useful information," said Senator Andrew Murray, Democrats Accountability spokesperson

"Following last week's scathing Audit Office report on regional funding scheme rorts, this Annual Report also does little to signal any acceptance of the need for higher standards or greater integrity by this
Coalition Government. They do have a sense of the absurd though. They measure self-satisfaction and give themselves a tick for positive feedback from members of the government and advertising agencies! If
they surveyed the citizens of Australia they would get a different picture.

"The Democrats take no issue with genuine advertising informing citizens of government programs and services. However, we do take issue with advertising that has a clear partisan and political content. Our long campaign for reform has been ignored by the Coalition.

"Together with the Labor Party and based on the Auditor-General's guidelines, the Democrats successfully moved a Senate order for more stringent controls on government advertising in 2003. To its shame, the Government has contemptuously refused to comply with this order.

"Similarly, the Government would not implement the recommendations of the December 2005 report of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee into Government Advertising and Accountability, which laid bare the aggressive misuse of taxpayer money by the Coalition.

"This Government remains unabashed by the squandering of taxpayer funds to promote party political propaganda. It has no shame," Senator Murray concluded.

See www.democrats.org.au/docs/ActionPlans/Electoral_GovernmentAdvertising_2007.pdf

Media contact: Senator Murray 0419 958 038 or 08 9481 1455

Appendix

A quick comparison of the PM&C Annual Report with the December 2005 Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee's recommendations in its report on Government Advertising and Accountability.

The Annual Report provides information to fully satisfy one of the four items set out in recommendation 10. That is, it provides the totalfigure for government expenditure on advertising activities in 2006-07
(item 1 of recommendation 10, see p76 of the annual report, $196.4 M on campaign advertising and $84.9 M for non-campaign advertising in 2006-07).

There is some information on expenditure by agency (item 2 of recommendation 10). However this is limited to information on major campaigns, not all campaigns. The disaggregated information accounts for $124 M (around 63%) of the $196.4 M total.

The annual report does not provide any information on the media type and time (item 3 of recommendation 10) nor detailed information about major campaigns (item 4 of recommendation 10).

Information relating to recommendation 11 (disaggregated agency figures) appears to be included to some extent in individual portfolio reports. For example a quick check of DOFA (p102) and DHS's (p225) annual reports
shows that this information is being included by individual portfoliosin compliance with section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

There is some limited information on PM&C's expenditure in relation to recommendation 12 (public opinion research). Page 191 for example shows $50,782 to Corporate Diagnostics for 'client satisfaction of campaign
and non-campaign media placement agencies'. Similar limited information is provided in the DOFA (p102) and DHS's (p225) annual reports again as a result of section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

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