Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said today that recent estimates of the total cost of government advertising “significantly underestimated” the real total cost of government advertising to taxpayers.
Evidence given today to a Legislative Council Select Committee by senior Health Department officers confirmed that the Rann Government had allocated $2.2 million for an advertising campaign, most of which was spent supporting the Rann Government’s view on the controversial Marjorie Jackson-Nelson hospital project.
However, it was confirmed today that publicly reported figures on costs of government advertising only refer to the costs of the “media buy” for television, radio and press.
“Significant additional costs for advertising agencies, creative concepts, market research and departmental staff costs are not included in the publicly provided figures on government advertising,” Mr Lucas said.
“Evidence given by Dr Tony Sherbon, Health Department CEO, confirms this fact.”
Hon R LUCAS: “Let me rephrase the question because in relation to the Starcom information which was produced, that is only the media buy aspect of your campaign, isn't it? If we are getting figures from Starcom (this is the amount of government advertising that has gone out through Starcom), it would only include, in relation to this hospital's campaign, the media buy element, would it not?
Dr T SHERBON: “The Starcom invoice would be the media buy.
Hon R LUCAS: “So, it would not include the cost of market research; it would not include the cost of advertising, consultancy and creative concepts; and it would not include the cost of departmental officers in terms of preparing the campaign; is that correct?
Dr T SHERBON: “You are correct. With respect to your last point there, the internal cost of departmental officer time, if you like, is not included in our costing; we assume that as an ongoing cost.
Hon R LUCAS: “You are right, it is for us to pursue this perhaps with DPC again because, clearly, on that understanding the total cost of government advertising is a much more significant figure than the publicly reported current cost which is the $34 million figure.”
“It is now clear that the figures released by the CEO of Mr Rann’s own department of $23 million for the first six months of 2009 (therefore possibly $46 million in 2009) are seriously misleading and significantly underestimate the true total cost of government advertising,” he said.
“If the example of the Health Department is typical of other departments, then the true cost could be tens of millions higher than the $46 million estimate for 2009.
“At a time when budgets are being cut across the board, it is a disgraceful waste of money by Mr Rann to be spending $2.2 million advertising his controversial hospital project plans.
“Mr Rann and Health Minister John Hill must now be forced to explain their warped priorities to the many South Australians on hospital waiting lists in this state.”
In other evidence to the Committee:
• Health still had $680,000 out of the $2.2 million budget to be spent in the period leading up to the March 2010 election;
• The Rann Government had allocated $2.4 million to the Water for Good campaign, most of which is being spent in the months leading up to the March 2010 election.
“Extensive market research has been conducted both before and after both these campaigns. It is my view and I will be asking the Select Committee to obtain copies of all of the taxpayer funded market research reports.”