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Government advertising: Intimidation of Evans a smokescreen for government propaganda.



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Media Release

Kelvin Thomson MP Shadow Minister for Public Accountability; Shadow Minister for Human Services Federal Member for Wills

114/05

Government Advertising: Intimidation of Evans a smokescreen for government propaganda

The Australian community has witnessed in recent days a series of blatant attacks on the Clerk of the Senate from senior Liberals Eric Abetz, Malcolm Turnbull and Nick Minchin.

These reveal the Executive arm of Government trying to intimidate the Senate and are an abuse by the Government of its new Senate majority.

Special Minister of State Senator Eric Abetz on Friday told the Senate Inquiry into Government Advertising that he was responsible for the backgrounding of an article published in last Friday’s The Australian newspaper which reported demands for the Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans to resign.

This attack on the Clerk of the Senate is in fact a smokescreen to deflect to attention from the major issue; the systematic plundering of the public purse to fund party political advertising in its own interest.

It is a classic case of shooting the messenger. Instead of trying to shoot the messenger, the Government should be responding to Harry Evans’ concern about the secrecy and lack of transparency in government advertising contracts, which has seen the multi-million industrial relations contract go to Liberal Party advertiser Ted Horton. The Ministerial Committee on Government Communications is a closed book, and its processes should be opened up.

Senate Clerk Harry Evans’ makes the point is that he is employed to give advice and has done so in keeping with tradition and precedent.

Mr Evans has simply acted in the best traditions of our Australian democratic process. Intimidation and veiled threats should have no part in the Australian democratic process.

The extraordinary tirade of condemnation directed at the Clerk exposes the Howard Government after nine long years as a cabal that not only dislikes criticism but takes every effort to stamp out dissent.

In the face of the Howard Government’s failure to be publicly accountable on this issue, Labor will continue to take up the fight by introducing legislation that will ensure government advertising is community information based rather than simply propaganda unleashed in the electoral interests of the Liberal and National Parties.

Ends Melbourne 22/08/2005

Contact: Cora Trevarthen 0418/770484