Howard’s ‘orgy of ads’ in lead-up to poll

The Federal Government spent at least $95 million on advertising in the run up to last year’s October election – but the spending has dropped dramatically in the six months since.

Excluding Defence Force recruitment ads, Federal Government spending on ads is not expected to exceed $12 million in the first half of this year.

The Howard Government has broken all records when it comes to advertising campaigns, clocking up at least $693 million since taking power in 1996.

According to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Howard Government has spent $125 million advertising the introduction of the GST, about $40 million on a range of Medicare entitlements, $34.8 million on apprenticeship programs, $28 million on various private health insurance initiatives and $167.5 million on Defence Force recruitment.

Federal Labor spokesman on public administration Kim Carr has lashed out at what he said had been an orgy of Government spending to advertise political programs in the lead-up to the federal election.

“Isn’t it a strange coincidence that after the election, Government advertising has fallen to virtually nothing?” Senator Carr said.

Melbourne University academic Sally Young, author of The Persuaders: Inside the Hidden Machine of Political Advertising, said the traditional pre-election spike in advertising was bound to heighten scepticism in some sections of the community.

“We shouldn’t be surprised at the big spending campaigns that we saw last year – nor that it drops off so dramatically after the election – because that has become the regular pattern established by this Government,” Dr Young said.

Pointing to laws in other countries – such as the United States, Canada and Britain, which prevent governments using taxpayers’ money to spruik their own political fortunes – Dr Young said there was a strong case for reform.

“In countries overseas they think we’re crazy by allowing public money to be spent in this way. They simply have rules on it that we don’t.”

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