The federal government is considering an “information campaign” but not an “advertising campaign” to explain its unpopular budget.
“We are not planning an advertising campaign. We do have a responsibility to ensure people across the community who are impacted by changes in the budget are aware of how those changes will impact on them and how those changes will not impact them,” said finance minister Mathias Cormann.
“We will continue to do what needs to be done to ensure that information is provided to people in the most efficient, cost effective and well targeted way possible, to ensure people are aware of the budget changes that impact on them and how, as appropriate.”
Before the election, the Coalition castigated Labor for taxpayer-funded advertising campaigns to promote government initiatives.
The Little Book of Big Labor Waste was produced shortly before the election and listed as “waste” $8.5m spent in 2012-13 advertising the Schoolkids Bonus because it was an automatic payment.
According to the little book, because eligible recipients didn’t have to do anything to receive the payment there was no justification in spending taxpayers’ money informing them about it.
In November last year, the government issued “short-term interim guidelines” for advertising campaigns which state campaign materials must not: mention the party in government by name; directly attack or scorn the views, policies or actions of others such as the policies and opinions of opposition parties or groups; include party political slogans or images; be designed to influence public support for a political party, a candidate for election, a minister or an MP; or refer or link to the websites of politicians or political parties.
When Labor embarked on taxpayer-funded advertising campaigns in 2010, the then opposition leader Tony Abbott said the government was “looting the Treasury because this prime minister cannot do the job ordinarily expected of a prime minister – that is, to explain, justify and defend the policies of the government”.
And when the Gillard government spent taxpayer funds advertising its carbon pricing scheme, Abbott said: “If the Labor party wants to advertise, the Labor party should find the money and the Labor party should spend the money. Taxpayers should not be ripped off to fund political propaganda.”
Greens senator Rachel Siewert said “the most vulnerable Australians already know very well how they will be impacted by this budget. They know that they are being condemned to live in poverty, they don’t need Government advertising to tell them.”