A Parliamentary Committee had recommended independent vetting of Premier Mike Rann’s government advertising.
The Select Committee on Taxpayer Funded Government Advertising Campaigns proposed that the Auditor General investigate proposed campaigns and their compliance with government advertising guidelines.
“The Liberal Opposition has committed to ending Mr Rann’s abuse of government advertising by proposing to slash expenditure and implement tough new guidelines on advertising,” Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said today.
“The Legislative Council Select Committee had tabled its report in Parliament and based its recommendations on the involvement of the Auditor General on the model implemented by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.
“The Committee recommended all government advertising campaigns with a total cost in excess of $50,000 must be assessed by the Auditor General prior to the launch of any campaign. As with the Commonwealth model, the final decision on the advertising campaign would still rest with the Minister involved.
“A report evaluating the effectiveness of all advertising campaigns with a total cost in excess of $50,000 will also be published on the department’s or agency’s website within 30 days of receipt of the report.
“The Committee also found that the total cost of Rann Government advertising was excessive and should be reduced by at least $20 million per year.
“The Committee’s majority report favoured a raft of regulatory measures to reduce by $20 million per annum the total costs of Mr Rann’s government advertising,” he said.
“To put this important recommendation into perspective, if the total costs of Mr Rann’s government advertising for 2009 are calculated, South Australians could be forking out as much as $60 million for “Rann Spin”.
“This report is a ringing endorsement of the Liberal Opposition’s ongoing battle with Mr Rann to bring back integrity and objectivity to government advertising.”
The Committee also recommended the following:
• The Advertising Policies and Guidelines should be amended so that departments and agencies must report on the total cost of each campaign and not just the cost of the “media buy” assessed by the Auditor General in their annual report;
• The Advertising Policies and Guidelines should be reviewed regularly and at least every four years; and,
• It was unacceptable that, on Mr Rann’s watch, 24 advertising campaigns in the last three years did not comply with the government’s own guidelines.
“These breaches of the Rann Government’s own rules were revealed only as a result of evidence given to this Legislative Council Select Committee,” Mr Lucas said.
“Responsibility for these breaches rests significantly with the then Chair of the Premier’s Communications Advisory Group, Paul Flanagan, who is Mr Rann’s Communications Manager in his Ministerial office.
“Two Labor dissenters, Carmel Zollo and Ian Hunter, opposed the report’s recommendations, claiming that recent changes to the guidelines would strengthen the approval process for government advertising.
“However, whilst Mr Rann’s policy bans politicians appearing in ads, he could still spend millions of dollars on advertising, such as his ‘MJN Hospital’, ads where the Government’s line was pushed by individual doctors and nurses instead of Mr Rann.
“It would also allow television ads that congratulate the State Government and South Australia for winning new projects, such as the Air-Warfare Destroyer Project.
“The Legislative Council Select Committee has made recommendations that will save South Australians millions of dollars each year and provide greater transparency and accountability.”