The federal government’s ‘questionable and controversial’ advertising campaigns

Credit: Charles Cheng via Unsplash

The federal government spends more on advertising than several big companies, including Coles, Woolworths and McDonalds, but some of the campaigns it funds are of “questionable” value, according to a study by public policy think tank Australia Institute.

The latest analysis from the Standard Media Index (SMI) shows that the government is the biggest spender when it comes to media agency bookings.

Government category ad spend rose 74% in February as federal pre-election spending rose alongside continued COVID messaging.

However, these expenditures will stop when an election is soon announced, to be replaced by political party expenditures.

Research from the Australia Institute reveals: “Current rules on government advertising have failed to prevent the funding of dubious and controversial advertising campaigns, at the cost of millions of dollars of public money.

“Reform is needed.

According to a Department of Finance report, Australian Government Campaign Expenditure for the 2020–21 Financial Year, the biggest spender on advertising was Defense at $32 million.

The COVID response was split into several categories, totaling $50 million,

A survey shows that the majority of Australians (76%) want greater independent oversight of the use of taxpayers’ money for government advertising.

Australia Institute research, Bad Impressions: Scrutiny of government advertising, found:

  • The Australian government spent $145.3 million on campaign advertising in the 2020-21 financial year.
  • Woolworths spent $118 million on advertising and McDonalds $83 million
  • New poll finds three in four Australians (76%) agree the Auditor General should review government advertising to ensure it meets genuine information needs
  • Research recommends that the Auditor General play an independent oversight role in approving government advertising

“Australians would be shocked to learn they are footing the bill for a government advertising budget that dwarfs that of companies like Coles, Woolworths and McDonalds,” says Bill Browne, senior researcher for Australia’s Democracy & Accountability program. Institute.

“It’s no wonder voters are cynical about government advertising when they outspend these big multinationals.

“Our research reveals that the overwhelming majority of Australians (76%) agree that the Auditor General should review government advertising to ensure it meets genuine information needs.

“Current rules have failed to prevent questionable and controversial ad campaigns from being funded at the cost of millions of dollars of public money.

“There is clearly a need for more independent oversight.

“Reform is needed and should focus on finding a role for the Auditor General in regulating proposed campaigns, not just auditing their administration after the fact.

The research’ is an extension of yesterday’s cross-launch of the Democratic Reform Agenda for the 47th Legislature

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Marilyn J. Hernandez