The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (17:39): I rise to speak to the second reading of the Constitution (Government Advertising) Amendment Bill. On a previous occasion—I cannot recall exactly when—I, together with some other members of the upper house select committee on this issue, spoke about and addressed our various views on government advertising. I refer those avid readers of Hansard to my contribution to indicate the position I adopted both personally and on behalf of the Liberal Party.
Subsequent to that, the Liberal Party took a policy to the last state election, which I think was in the broad ambit of our public sector management policy, and I stand to be corrected on the precise title of that policy.
That sort of summarises our general position, but it indicates why the Liberal Party does not and will not support the second reading of this bill. In that report we highlighted the sorts of changes we were prepared to support. We certainly supported greater controls and restrictions on government advertising. We certainly supported the introduction of a model of those restrictions, based on what then existed in the commonwealth arena.
I note that those of us who congratulated the federal government on those restrictions were left exposed when the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the federal government caved in to craven political self-interest in the period leading up to the federal election and removed those controls and restrictions in a desperate endeavour to hang on to office and allow them to undertake some taxpayer-funded government advertising. I note that that did not assist former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his endeavours but, as we well know, Prime Minister Gillard continues in office after the most recent federal election.
The view that Liberal members on that committee expressed was that we supported the changes being made generally through administrative change and action. We therefore had the view that we did not support going down the legislative change option. One of the reasons for that is that it is so extraordinarily difficult to cater, in a legislative sense, for all the restrictions one would want to contemplate and would be prepared to support in a piece of legislation that governs the actions of all governments and all circumstances in the future. I acknowledge that the Hon. Mr Parnell has used his best endeavours to try to cater for those other circumstances that one cannot actually contemplate, and he has a catch-all provision towards the end which seeks to do that. That is his own tacit way of acknowledging that it is hard to legislatively provide for all possibilities that might arise in future, and he acknowledged that therefore there needed to be at least some let-out or catch-all clause.
There are some specific issues we would have if we were to get into a detailed debate in committee about the particular provisions. I do not intend to waste the time of the committee because I expect that government members will not support the second reading either, and we therefore will not need to waste too much of the committee’s time going through the detail. However, if the government surprises me we will happily engage in that lengthy committee process and tease out some of the issues with the Hon. Mr Parnell.
The Hon. Mr Parnell, in his second reading contribution, says that he is being true to the views he put both before and during the select committee. We came to a happy landing on the general principle that there ought to be restrictions, and we had some impact. Time will tell how long, because the government, in the throes of, ‘We are listening and we have heard the message’, announced that it had reduced the level of government advertising, but I sometimes wonder whether that will last the four years of this parliamentary term, and I am sure that is what is driving the Hon. Mr Parnell.
The Hon. Mr Parnell knows that what we are doing here is largely symbolic because the government of the day in the House of Assembly will not support legislative change anyway. Nevertheless, that does not prevent us on this or indeed any other issue symbolically passing legislation and trying to put pressure on the government of the day in relation to any particular issue, so I do not criticise the Hon. Mr Parnell for that. He has been true to what he said. In not supporting this, we are being true to the views that I have expressed and for some of the reasons that I have given, but I am not going to bore the council at this stage with all of the detailed reasons.
Without going into the detail, there are some interesting questions about the broad definition of advertising. The definitions of what we have broadly contemplated to be what I would call expensive, mass-produced advertising—in particular, television and radio advertising—are included in this legislation. They are very broad and would include a whole variety of things, some expensive and some inexpensive, and potentially relatively inexpensive explanatory leaflets that the departments and agencies might produce which certainly would still come within the definition of advertising in the legislation, in my humble view.
As I said, I do not intend to pursue all of the detailed issues in relation to the amendment for the reasons that I have outlined now. I refer the interested readers of Hansard to the select committee report and also to our parliamentary speech on the issue to the reasons why we support a restriction on the unlimited government advertising which has existed in the past, but at this stage we do not support going down a legislative path. I remind again the readers of Hansard that this will be a largely symbolic issue should the legislation pass because this government certainly will not be supporting any legislative change along these lines.