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DEPUTY PRESIDENT, The
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Ronaldson, Sen Michael
Matters of Public Importance
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- Start of Business
RENEWABLE ENERGY (ELECTRICITY) AMENDMENT BILL 2010
RENEWABLE ENERGY (ELECTRICITY) (CHARGE) AMENDMENT BILL 2010
RENEWABLE ENERGY (ELECTRICITY) (SMALL-SCALE TECHNOLOGY SHORTFALL CHARGE) BILL 2010
- In Committee
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Farrell, Sen Don, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
(Bernardi, Sen Cory, Evans, Sen Chris)
(Wortley, Sen Dana, Sherry, Sen Nick)
Council of Australian Governments
(Payne, Sen Marise, Evans, Sen Chris)
(Brown, Sen Bob, Wong, Sen Penny)
(Birmingham, Sen Simon, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
(Moore, Sen Claire, Arbib, Sen Mark)
(Ronaldson, Sen Michael, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- NATIONAL INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER BILL 2010
- DOUBLE DISSOLUTION
- MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
- TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE ENERGY
- MANDATORY VEHICLE FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS
- WASTE MANAGEMENT STUDY
- VISIT OF THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
- DALAI LAMA AND TIBET
- CONTRIBUTION OF REFUGEES TO AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY
- WATER SUPPLY FOR ADELAIDE
- GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING
- MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE
- ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES PACKAGE
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL (NO. 1) 2010-2011
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 1) 2010-2011
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 2) 2010-2011
CORPORATIONS AMENDMENT (CORPORATE REPORTING REFORM) BILL 2010
FINANCIAL SECTOR LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (PRUDENTIAL REFINEMENTS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2010
NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (CONTINENCE AIDS PAYMENT SCHEME) BILL 2010
TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2010 GST ADMINISTRATION MEASURES NO. 3) BILL 2010
TERRITORIES LAW REFORM BILL 2010
- AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS
- Intelligence and Security Committee
- Procedure Committee
- Corporations and Financial Services Committee
- Treaties Committee
- Privileges Committee
- Privileges Committee
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
- Migration Committee
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
- AVIATION TRANSPORT SECURITY AMENDMENT REGULATIONS 2010 (NO. 1)
- WILD RIVERS (ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT) BILL 2010 (NO.2)
- Brisbane: Homelessness
- Learn. Earn. Legend!
- Climate Change
- Food Security
- Paid Parental Leave
World War II: Papua New Guinea Campaign
- Miss Muriel Matters
Paid Parental Leave
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Senator RONALDSON (4:38 PM) —To put this debate in some context I will read two quotes. In 2007, prior to the federal election, Kevin Rudd said that government advertising was:
… a sick cancer within our system. It’s a cancer on democracy.
Another quote from the Prime Minister, in November 2007 at a doorstop press conference, was:
I can guarantee that we will have a process in place, run by the Auditor-General ... In terms of establishing the office of the Auditor-General, with clear cut guidelines to whom every television campaign is submitted for approval before that television campaign is implemented, you have my absolute 100 per cent guarantee that that will occur—100 per cent guarantee. And each one of you here can hold me accountable for that.
This is a broken pre-election promise from a man who described advertising as ‘a sick cancer within our system’ and ‘a cancer on democracy’.
In the time available to me I want to very quickly talk about the legacy of this government in the context of the resource super profits tax advertising campaign. If you look through this government’s 2½-year legacy you will see that it simply does not deserve to be re-elected. Let us go through some of these matters. There are the obvious ones, such as: $100 million a day borrowed to fund poor economic management; a budget deficit of $60 billion; house fires and tragic deaths from its failed Home Insulation Program; the Building the Education Revolution debacle—$1.5 billion over budget and $5 billion wasted; and an illegal immigrant program in tatters with illegal immigrants arriving in their thousands and no slowdown in the activities of people smugglers. They are the obvious, in-your-face matters for this government. Under the surface bubbles a lack of transparency and a lack of openness that will define this government and in my view will ultimately lead to its quite rightful downfall.
I want to go on to the question of government advertising. I want to talk about the changes that were made by this government. I remind honourable senators of the context that I gave this debate and the context of the Prime Minister’s comments. I want to reacquaint honourable senators with the changes that were made in relation to exemptions to advertising campaigns. Under the Auditor-General, as we know, the guidelines for the use of this exemption by the minister were for ‘national emergency, extreme urgency or other extraordinary reasons’. After having reinforced and put in place proposals in relation to government advertising and the Auditor-General in 2008, this government changed those rules this year. They put in place weakened guidelines, according to the Auditor-General and also, interestingly, the man who reviewed these guidelines, recommended the changes and—remarkably—is ultimately making the decisions. But that is another matter. In his testimony to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit last week, Mr Allan Hawke noted that when he was reviewing the 2008 guidelines he felt that the ‘extraordinary reasons’ in the exemption provision did not take into account the historical position of the Australian Electoral Commission. Historically, although it is an FMA Act agency, the Australian Electoral Commission has traditionally been exempted from having to go through external vetting processes. So rather than creating another specific exemption, Mr Hawke recommended a change in the general exemption provision. That was replicated in the new guidelines—the 2010 guidelines—which then changed the reasons for an exemption to ‘national emergency, extreme urgency or other compelling reasons’.
That there was a change from ‘extraordinary reasons’ to ‘compelling reasons’ was not in any way justified by the government. There is no definition of ‘compelling reasons’. As I said, the Auditor-General has constantly stated that these changes represented a softening of the guidelines and, notably, Dr Hawke has subsequently stated that it was not his intention to have such advertising as the mining tax campaign encapsulated in the compelling reasons rule. The man himself who recommended these changes was only assuming that they would be changed to allow the continuation of the AEC’s previous exemption from external review.
I just want to give an exchange during that committee meeting:
Mr GEORGIOU—… Did you envisage that an advertising campaign on mining and promoting the government’s position on mining was of the same order or the same quality?
Dr Hawke—I did not, no.
… … …
Mr GEORGIOU—… Did you anticipate that your notion of ‘compelling’ would be as elastic as to embrace an advertising campaign designed to combat the so-called misinformation by the mining lobby?
Dr Hawke—… I did not anticipate that this might be used in the way it has …
That is from the mouth of the man who was responsible for changing these rules. He has said that this duplicitous government has actually bent his expectations of the change in the rule.
In the time left open to me, I will turn to the very interesting part—the events of two weeks ago. As we know, the government’s new committee looked at this so-called mining tax advertising campaign once—on 21 April. They met once in relation to this and there was no mention at all of the likelihood of the ministerial intervention by way of an exemption. Two days before the Treasurer wrote a letter to Senator Ludwig, there had been two advertisements in the West Australian. There was no other paid advertising from anyone in relation to the mining tax. But, despite that, the Treasurer wrote to the minister on the back of urgency or compelling reasons. So we got evidence at the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration last week, not evidence given during Senate estimates, that indeed the minister had signed a letter on 24 May granting the exemption that the minister had received from his department on 14 May—a brief containing draft letters to the Treasurer and a draft statement of reasons to accompany it which should have been tabled with the parliament. That was Monday, 24 May.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration made a decision to hold the question of government advertising over to the Thursday morning. The minister was sitting at the table with these officials for at least 1½ days, and one presumably would have thought that at that stage he had advised them. We then learnt that the department themselves were only advised on the Thursday afternoon that the minister had made this decision and parliament was only advised on the 28th. Now there is only one reason for this. There is only one reason why this minister would have failed to tell his departmental officials. There is only one reason why this minister would have failed to tell the parliament and those who were attending Senate estimates: it was a complete and utter cover-up. The fix in relation to this exemption was on from 14 May. The fix was on on 24 May when the letter was signed, and the fix was really on when there was no mention of it until the following Friday—after Senate estimates in relation to this matter had finished. This is a government that no longer deserves government. It is a government where Operation Sunlight has been completely and utterly thrown out the window—where there is no accountability for the minister, the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, and no accountability whatsoever in relation to the activities of a government that does not deserve re-election. (Time expired)