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Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Page: 100

Ms KATE ELLIS (9:10 PM) —I rise tonight to express my disbelief over the government’s newest political ad spending spree. I express my outrage, as well as the outrage that I have no doubt is felt by many of the residents of Adelaide, that taxpayers—working Australians who are the very people who will be worse off under this government’s unfair Work Choices laws—are the very same people who are being forced to dig into their pockets and pay for the advertising. It is quite clearly not the role of a decent prime minister to force-feed politicised, knee-jerk propaganda down the Australian people’s throats. It is instead perhaps just the act of one who is desperate as well as being desperately out of touch.

This advertising spree is designed solely to try and save the government’s industrial relations battle. It is a battle that they launched against Australian workers, Australian families and the Australian commitment to a fair go when they trumpeted the introduction of Work Choices. And now this government splashes about taxpayer funded advertising to try to sell the greatest con of them all—that Work Choices is fair, and that a so-called ‘fairness test’ will magically hide the truth of these laws. Well, no amount of taxpayer funded spending can make Work Choices look kind and comfortable rather than the extreme and unfair failure that it is.

Almost humorously, the government cannot even make any decent attempt to defend this outrageous misuse of taxpayer funds. What did they instead offer us today in question time? ‘One of the state governments spent funds on advertising and so can we.’ I say to this government: how about showing some form of leadership rather than just playing the game of ‘if they do it then we can do it too’. Although perhaps we should not be surprised by this latest episode, this splash of $4.1 million on advertising in just one week, because it fits in very nicely with the pattern of wasteful public spending which this government has established.

Sadly this advertising campaign is not a one-off. We also face taxpayer funded advertising in the lead-up to the election on a whole host of issues: workers’ rights, climate change, superannuation, private health—you name it. We are seeing taxpayers’ money wasted at record speeds. Add to this the facts that we have recently learnt such as the $540,000 the PM was set to spend upgrading his dining room until he was caught with his hands in the till. Or indeed the $30,000 that it was today revealed had been spent on wine and other alcoholic beverages for the Prime Ministers’ two official residences—just to April of this financial year.

The truly upsetting thing about this whole debacle—other than the complete disdain it shows towards the Australian taxpayer—is that this money could have instead been spent on really worthy projects. I have no doubt that the community of Adelaide, whom I represent, would have far preferred that this money be spent on providing dental care for the hundreds of needy patients still waiting on lengthy lists, or perhaps on broadband infrastructure so the families of Adelaide who remain unable to access any form of broadband—despite the minister claiming that nobody in capital cities is complaining about broadband—could do so. It could have been spent on childcare places for the hundreds of Adelaide families left on childcare waiting lists. But no, instead that minister is also denying that there is a problem. It could have been spent on our roads, perhaps on addressing the Brittannia roundabout in my electorate, which the Minister for Ageing likes to harp on about to our state government but apparently does not see fit to get results out of either the previous Liberal state government or now his own federal government.

This advertising spree, and indeed this government’s overall wasteful approach to spending public money, is based solely on its own perceived political benefit. This hand-in-the-till approach is a shameful disgrace to any notion of responsible and reasonable governance. The truth is that after 11 long years in office this Prime Minister believes that the taxpayers’ money is his own. It is not. It belongs to the people of Australia, and the people of Australia deserve far better than this. If this government is now coming to the realisation that these laws are unfair, as we have been arguing all along, then it should not spend millions of taxpayer dollars to try and cover up that fact. Instead, it should stand in this parliament and do exactly what we on this side of the House are proposing to do—that is, to get rid of them. Change the laws. Do not waste taxpayers’ money in trying to cover them up, instead confusing the Australian people and telling them that black is white. Work Choices are unfair laws and they need to go. My Labor colleagues and I will stand proudly in this parliament until we can get rid of them. (Time expired)