Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint doorstop interview: 19 November 2007: Annual Report Of The Department Of Prime Minister And Cabinet; Government Advertising; Peter ...

Download PDFDownload PDF

Annual Report Of The Department Of Prime Minister And Cabinet; Government Advertising; Peter Debnam; Ageing Population Doorstop Interview - 19th November 2007

RUDD: Good to be here with Rodney Cocks, our candidate for La Trobe, and Mike Symon our candidate for Deakin. And, the reason I wanted to talk to you again this afternoon was simply about this report which has been just released by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

This report, the annual report from Mr Howard’s own department for the year 06-07, reveals a staggering figure of some $281 million in Government advertising. That figure excludes the amount that the meter has been ticking over since 1 July this year. It’s our belief since 1 July this year through to the issuing of the writs, we’ve had that meter ticking over at something close to a million dollars a day - and if you look at the overall time spread then, another 120 days, another $120 million worth of Government advertising. And just prior to this campaign being officially launched, you know how much was being rolled out on the nation’s television sets.

That’s a huge amount of money and it goes to the whole question of this Government’s priorities and the extent to which they have lost touch. That figure revealed in this report, $281 million, represents $23 million a month, $5.4 million a week and $770,000 a day. That’s before 1 July. After 1 July it gets much, much worse.

That money for that year could have been spent on close to a million dental consultations, 280,000 bed nights in hospital or 20,000 hip replacements. This goes to this Government’s short term spending priorities on itself and its own political interests rather than a long term investment in the nation.

If you put that together with Mr Howard’s $10 billion spending spree last Monday; put it together with the enormous amount of Government waste involved in the political manipulation of the $300 million plus Regional Partnerships Program, add to it this $281 million plus when it comes to Government advertising. It shows that this Government engaged in short term political expenditure in the lead up to an

election rather than long term investments in the needs of the nation. Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Do you, Mr Rudd, accept that having promised that you won’t do

Kevin Rudd

Rodney CocksMike Symon

this, if you actually deliver that promise, you’ll be the first politician in the nation’s history to actually honour that promise? Because you all make it.

RUDD: Well, I’m dead serious in returning decency to public administration. What’s the machinery that we’ve outlined for doing this? That’s for the Auditor-General to make a determination about the content of television advertising campaigns on behalf of the Government. And if those campaigns meet the Auditor-General’s standards - which I’ve described as basic public information, for example recruitment campaigns for the Defence forces, etc - that should proceed. But if it doesn’t meet the Auditor General’s specifications, then it should not proceed. And I say now what I’ve said so many times in the past - what we see here is short-term political interests ultimately strangling the long term interests of the nation, including the health of our democracy. And what I say is, let’s as a nation unite behind a reform for this in the future, so that we have got decency restored to public administration. But most importantly, these are the taxpayers’ dollars. And if I’m looking at $281 million that could have been spent on a million extra public dental consultations, on 280,000 bed nights in hospitals or 20,000 hip replacements, that’s where this sort of money should be spent.

JOURNALIST: Some of the advertising has to be good, whether it’s safety on the internet, the drought programs, for example. It’s not all a waste of money, is it?

RUDD: No, I agree that there are public information campaigns that are appropriate. What I disagree with is the absence of any mechanism under the Auditor-General to deem that to be so. What’s wrong with that? I mean if you’ve got a decent public information campaign, have an independent office like the Auditor-General make that determination. But I do notice that when it comes to the independence of the Auditor-General, you have the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia firing torpedos at that independent office, let alone adhering to the determination of that independent office when it comes to proper use of public funds for these sort of public information campaigns.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) generic figure of $280 million. Not all of that is, as you say, wasted Government advertising. Some of it is Defence recruitment, government recruitment.

RUDD: Well, obviously that is the case. What we don’t know is the separation between. What we do know for a virtual fact is that since 1 July the vast bulk of what we’ve seen on our television screens under the Howard Government has been a publicly funded, taxpayer funded, advertising campaign with one objective - to secure the re-election of the Howard Government using taxpayer dollars to do that. I just don’t think that’s right.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) more than $600 million in that (inaudible)

RUDD: I can guarantee that we will have a process in place, run by the Auditor-General, which will determine what is appropriate for use in Government funded, taxpayer funded, television advertising campaigns.

JOURNALIST: Would you resign if you didn’t deliver that in your first term?

RUDD: 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 percent guarantee that that will occur - 100 per cent guarantee. And each one of you here can hold me accountable for that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, many of the State Labor Governments also engage in advertising that can be clearly seen to be about promoting (inaudible). Would you encourage them to apply the same standards?

RUDD: I’d go further than that. This sort of process whereby Auditors General are there to independently determine what is appropriate or inappropriate with taxpayer funded advertising should be applied to each State and Territory of the Commonwealth as well. I make no excuses for blatant political advertising out of the taxpayer dollar wherever it occurs. Furthermore, I would urge upon every State and Territory government of the country and any alternative State and Territory government of the country to do the same. These are precious taxpayers’ dollars, and if I’ve got $281 million to spend and the options are an extra one million public dental treatments and extra 280,000 bed nights in our hospitals or an extra 20,000 hip replacements, that’s where I’ll be putting the money.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Peter Debnam’s comments on Kyoto?

RUDD: Well, Peter Debnam, right wing conservative figure from New South Wales would make a better Environment Minister under Mr Howard than Malcolm Turnbull. Because Peter Debnam, this New South Wales right winger, has himself recognised that we should all have ratified Kyoto - and what we have is a Howard Government fundamentally opposed still to the ratification of Kyoto. Mr Howard should take a long, hard look at what Peter Debnam has had to say and act responsibly in the national interest.

JOURNALIST: Is this an embarrassment for the Government?

RUDD: Well, Mr Howard can answer for his own actions on this. Peter Debnam has said what reasonable, plain speaking people across our nation are saying. They want Australia to be part of the global climate change solution, not just a part of the problem. Peter Debnam, former Liberal leader in New South Wales, right wing leader in New South Wales, has said we should ratify Kyoto and Mr Howard, Mr Costello and Mr Turnbull say e should not. I think it speaks for itself.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask a question of Mr Symon. You’ve come from a background in the Electrical Trades Union. Are you going to feel comfortable with Labor’s policy on right of entry laws for union officials and will that make it easier for union officials do their work?

SYMOND: Labor’s policy is about fairness in the workplace. It’s also about

making sure that employers know what they can do, making sure that employees and organisations of employees know what the rules are.

RUDD: Ok, anything else? We’ve got to get going. Last one.

JOURNALIST: You made comments before earlier today about the effect of ageing on our population. Are you worried about the financial impact on younger Australians by an aging population and if so, what is the key to easing the burden?

RUDD: The impact of ageing on Australia’s population?


RUDD: Well, one of the things you’ve got to engage in is simply this: what’s the huge consumer of the public taxpayer in Australia - apart from the Howard Government’s advertising campaign? It lies in health and hospitals. It’s huge. Unless we as a nation invest effectively in preventative health care programs, let me tell you that the ageing of the population we’re going to see a complete explosion in Australia’s public health expenditure across both the Commonwealth

and the States.

A key element of the next Australian Healthcare Agreement, if we’re elected to Government to be negotiated between ourselves and the States would be this: to make preventative healthcare programs front and centre for the future of the Australian Healthcare Agreements. Because unless you do that, you are simply creating a fiscal sword of Damocles for future Australian governments when it

comes to paying the bill long term for Australia’s overall health needs. Therefore, we need a much more significant investment in preventative healthcare programs. It is one of the reasons why we are funding GP super clinics to bring under that single roof, in communities associated with hospitals, a whole range of preventative healthcare strategies.

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 161 London Circuit, Canberra City, ACT 2600