Thursday, 20 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Conroy. Minister, the Independent Communications Committee chaired by Mr Allan Hawke has found that the government's $22 million NDIS advertising campaign is in breach of the guidelines on information and advertising campaigns. Mr Hawke's advice of 13 June said:
The Committee is concerned that running the proposed national campaign in Western Australia may not fully comply with Principle 4 of the Guidelines, specifically the need for campaign information to clearly and directly affect the interests of recipients.
The Committee considers that the need to run the proposed campaign advertising in Western Australia at this time requires a specific and strong justification given there is not currently a negotiated agreement to co-fund and implement the DisabilityCare scheme in that state.
Why is the government defying the advice of Mr Hawke and breaching its own advertising guidelines, and will the government now cease the advertisements in Western Australia?
I thank the senator for his question. When we were elected in 2007, this government committed to cleaning up the taxpayer funded spending spree that was the Howard government's system. We have delivered on that commitment. When we were elected, this government was faced with a system that had next to no independent oversight and no integrity. Before Labor introduced the Independent Communications Committee there was simply no scrutiny of government advertising. Labor introduced tough guidelines which governed the content and presentation of campaigns, removed ministers from an active role in campaigns and significantly reduced costs.
Advertising is driven by the legitimate need to inform the public about their rights, their entitlements and their obligations, including advertising for: the census campaign; ongoing Defence Force recruiting; health campaigns like Quit Smoking and on obesity and illicit drugs; and the digital switchover. We have increased reporting requirements and, unlike the Howard government, we have set out exactly how much taxpayer money is spent on campaign advertising.
I rise on a point of order on relevance, Mr President. I have let the minister go for a minute and a half and he has not been in any danger of straying close to the specific question, which was: why has the government defied its own advertising guidelines and why has the government ignored Mr Hawke's advice?
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I understand that those on the other side might think that the guidelines are irrelevant to a question about advertising, but they clearly are relevant, and the minister is going through an explanation of the guidelines.
Schools and DisabilityCare Australia campaigns have been reviewed by the Independent Communications Committee and certified by the relevant departmental secretaries as being in compliance with the guidelines. Feedback was given by the ICC, as is normal, and it was taken on board. In fact, the Independent Communications Committee has never issued—
Feedback was given by the ICC, as is normal, and it was taken on board. In fact, the Independent Communications Committee has never issued a negative compliance report against a Labor government campaign. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank Senator Conroy for confirming that the government has defied and ignored Mr Hawke's advice. I ask the minister: why do the NDIS television advertisements contain no details about eligibility, and what is the purpose of television advertisements that make little effort to explain the NDIS and, like all advertisements under this government, simply contain slogans and a reference to a website?
Hypocrisy has reared its head today. In 2007, the Howard government spent a whopping $254 million on advertising with no independent oversight. In 2012, the government spent less than half than the Howard government did in 2007 when the member for North Sydney was trying to convince Australians that Work Choices was their friend. The high-water mark for government advertising will always be the $84 million Mr Hockey spent on media placement for Work Choices alone, including $31.8 million over just three weeks in October 2005. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. Isn't the public entitled to be a little cynical about the government's intentions in spending $22 million between now and August, including $7 million over the next 10 days on advertisements with little information about a scheme that will not be completed for another seven years?
(—) (): As I was saying, the member for North Sydney spent $31.8 million on media placement for Work Choices alone over just three weeks in October 2005. For the fifth year in a row, the government has spent over $100 million less than the $254 million that was the Howard government's advertising spend in 2007. We will continue to spend significantly less than the Liberal-National coalition. When those opposite stand up they do not have any credibility whatsoever. You just have to think back to the outrageous misuse and abuse of taxpayers' funds that the Work Choices campaign represented. Do not just sit there and snigger, Senator Sinodinos. I know you had left the building by then, but— (Time expired)