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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 241

Senator WONG (9:16 PM) —I spoke in the second reading debate in relation to the two amendments standing in the names of Senator Murray and me. The request for amendment on sheet 5269 deals with advertising and seeks to put in place a fetter on the government’s profligate expenditure of public moneys on party political advertising. I think there are a few people who do not recognise the extent of the government’s advertising. We know already of the $55 million that has been spent on Work Choices, plus reportedly there has been an additional $36.5 million spent on that. We know of the $52 million on the private health funds. We know of the $69 million on their superannuation policies. And we have a range of other campaigns coming at us down the track. There will be no Australian living room that will be safe from the Howard government’s advertising, all funded courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.

With the request for amendment on sheet 5269 we are seeking to place some restrictions around the use of public moneys, of taxpayers’ funds, for government advertising. There are times when government advertising is quite legitimate. No-one in this place, or in any sensible political position, would argue that proper information campaigns, health and safety issues—those sorts of genuine, factually based campaigns—ought not be funded. But what we see from the government, frankly, is quite blatant political propaganda, and people know and understand that. That was why the Work Choices campaign was unpopular. The extent to which this has been politicised by this government is demonstrated by the newspaper advertisements that were placed in all the national and metropolitan dailies on the Friday after the Prime Minister made his announcement about the fake fairness test.

Just so people know: the Senate estimates evidence revealed that the Prime Minister’s office was involved in the drafting of the advertisements—and, perhaps as importantly, the government actually used what they described as ‘non-campaign advertising’ to fund those advertisements. I cannot remember how much money it was. Just to be clear: non-campaign advertising is generally things like recruitment or meetings—very factual, not associated with any policy issue in particular. So they delved into another honey pot in order to fund this. That is the request for amendment on sheet 5269.

The amendment on 5309 deals with the Kirribilli and the Lodge issues, which I spoke to in the second reading debate and do not intend to address again, unless the government wishes to engage in debate on it. We have made the point consistently that we do not think Australians consider it appropriate for the Prime Minister of this country to use his taxpayer funded official residences for party political fundraising. It is undoubtedly the case that that was done by this Prime Minister and by the Liberal Party of Australia.

To expedite the matter, Mr Chairman, I seek leave to move the amendment and request for amendment on sheet 5269 and the request for amendment on sheet 5309 consecutively—and flag that we will seek a division on both of them—in the interests of trying to not require a four-minute division in respect of both. But that is obviously a matter for the chair and the chamber.

Leave granted.