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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31618

Dr EMERSON (10:20 AM) —This is a case of three spikes and you are out—three spikes of political advertising, each before a federal election. As the member for Hotham, the shadow Treasurer, said, $32 million was spent before the 1998 election. That was doubled to $66 million before the 2001 election. Now it has been doubled again to $123 million in the spike before the 2004 election. To give some perspective on that, the party political advertising campaigns typical of a federal election cost around $10 million. So 12 times the cost of party political advertising is being required of the Australian taxpayers; $123 million is being fleeced from the Australian taxpayers to fund this government's propaganda and re-election campaigns. It is a case of three spikes and you are out, and you will be out through this scandalous waste of taxpayers' money.

For month after month, the Minister for Health and Ageing resisted all requests and campaigns on our part—and all urging on behalf of young children and babies in this country—to have the pneumococcal vaccine provided so that struggling parents would not have to find up to $500 for that vaccine. He said, `We have other priorities.' The government certainly did have other priorities—$123 million of taxpayers' funds being used on a propaganda campaign for the re-election of the Howard government.

Now we have more campaigns. Obviously, the Medicare campaign is on right now. Every time Australian people turn on the TV, they are bombarded with propaganda from a health minister who said, `Don't tamper with Medicare,' but who was tutored by the Prime Minister of Australia, whose mantra in 1987 was: `I will take a scalpel to Medicare'—and that is exactly what this government wants to do. But it realised that it could not take a scalpel to Medicare in front of people, because they would be horrified. As a consequence, the government has been dismantling Medicare by stealth and then spending $20-odd million to try to persuade the Australian people that it is not dismantling Medicare by stealth.

I refer to the press release that the shadow Treasurer tabled. This is absolutely blinding, breathtaking hypocrisy. It is from John Howard—from before he became Prime Minister—and it refers to a $14 million advertising campaign under Labor. Compare that $14 million with the $123 million of this government—and that $14 million campaign was part of the normal advertising that governments can legitimately do. There were no pre-election spikes under Labor. But back then John Howard—who is now the Prime Minister of Australia—said in relation to that $14 million of taxpayers' money that was being spent:

This grubby tactic will backfire on the Government. Taxpayers will see through it. They don't want their money wasted on glossy advertising designed to make the Prime Minister feel good.

Hear, hear. John Howard said that back in 1995, and here we are. He is the Prime Minister now, and I agree: taxpayers do not want their money wasted on glossy advertising designed to make the Prime Minister feel good. He went on to say:

... we will ask the Auditor-General to draw up new guidelines on what is an appropriate use of taxpayers' money in this area.

Where are the guidelines? That is yet another broken promise. He said one thing before an election and another thing after the election. Back in 1995—almost 10 years ago—John Howard promised to ask the Auditor-General to draw up the guidelines, but it has not suited him in government for more than eight years to have those guidelines, because he wants to run rampant, spending taxpayers' money on a re-election campaign. It is a re-election campaign that is funded by the taxpayers of this country.

John Howard also said:

Propaganda should be paid for by political parties.

That is right. He should stick to his word but, as on so many other things, he does not—just ask the asylum seekers who this government maliciously said threw their children overboard. He also said:

In any other form of business, the shareholders would revolt and throw out the management which wasted their money.

I call on the Australian people to revolt and throw out this grubby government that is spending $123 million of taxpayers' money. The revolt is on. The government will pay a heavy price for this. Taxpayers are paying now, but the government will very soon.