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Tuesday, 19 June 2001
Page: 27856

Mr BEAZLEY (2:10 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Do you recall promising in 1995:

We will ask the Auditor-General to establish a set of guidelines, and we will run all of our advertisements past the Auditor-General and they will need to satisfy those guidelines.

Did the Auditor-General propose a set of guidelines on government advertising in 1998? Did the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts unanimously endorse amended Auditor-General's guidelines last year? Prime Minister, why haven't you kept your promise and implemented these advertising guidelines?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I remind the Leader of the Opposition that all of the material that he refers to has been carried out strictly in accordance with the guidelines that were laid down by his government. On top of that, I would remind him that they are guidelines, I understand, that were reissued early in 1995, and they spoke of the need to keep people fully informed. They spoke of the obligation that rested upon government departments to make certain that programs they had introduced were widely understood in the Australian community. It has been part of the opposition's questioning on this issue of government advertising to imply, for example, that there is absolutely no justification for spending any money in drawing people's attention to the existence of the $300 bonus to people of pensionable age. The argument is advanced by the Labor Party that everybody who is entitled to that will have the money automatically paid to them. That is the basis of the Labor Party's claim. That claim is untrue. About 30,000 people, it has been calculated, are entitled to receive this benefit. They are people of pensionable age who are outside the social security or taxation systems, and, unless a campaign is conducted by the government to draw the attention of these people to the benefit that is available, then those people are going to miss out.

Mr Cox —I have a point of order on relevance, Mr Speaker. This question was about the Auditor-General's guidelines, not about the government's guidelines or indeed—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Kingston will resume his seat. The Prime Minister's reply is entirely within the standing orders, and I recognise him.

Mr HOWARD —I simply make the point that there are 30,000 Australians of pensionable age who will not have the $300 automatically paid to them because they are outside the social security system and the taxation system. The only way you are going to reach those people is to draw their attention to their entitlement, because there is no existing payment connection between them and the government at the present time. Apparently, as far as the Leader of the Opposition is concerned, he doesn't care about those 30,000 people.

I might also add that the Leader of the Opposition has been flinging around a figure of $20 million a month. I am advised by the Minister for Defence that that includes $3 million a month in relation to defence advertising. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition wants us to stop trying to increase recruitment to the Australian Defence Force.