Australian nonpartisan MP Helen Haynes has said it is disturbing that major political parties routinely abuse taxpayer-funded advertising to hijack public relations campaigns.
The Grattan Institute found that nearly a quarter of the federal government’s $200 million annual advertising budget is spent on political messages.
Over the past 13 years, the federal government has spent $630 million on advertising that celebrates government achievements.
The think tank says the problem exists on both political and state and federal levels.
Haynes said taxpayers expect public funds to be used in their best interest.
She said the millions of dollars spent for political purposes fueled public cynicism.
“People’s trust and confidence in government is declining,” she told ABC.
“It’s time to stop this.”
Independent parliamentarian Dai Le said the amount of money the government has spent is staggering and people outside the tent are forced to spend their own money on campaigns.
“The major parties that have these funds are money for taxpayers to advertise their machines,” she told Nine.
“It really needs to be re-evaluated.”
Of the 10 most politicized federal ad campaigns in the last 13 years, half were by Labor and the other half by the coalition government.
Lead author of the report, Daniel Wood, CEO of the Grattan Institute, said the study shows that Australians can rely on the goodwill of government ministers to stop public money being used for political purposes. He said he showed he couldn’t.
“Weaponizing taxpayer-funded advertising for political gain wastes public money, undermines confidence in politicians and democracy, and creates an uneven playing field in elections.
The report recommends stricter regulations at the state and federal levels to stop government abuse of advertising.
Campaigns should only be allowed if they call a specific action, but campaigns that only promote policies or programs without a call to action should be prohibited.
Haynes supported the Institute’s call for an independent panel to evaluate government advertising and the push for a new congressional committee.
Ahead of budget week, the prime minister moved to ban political fundraising inside the Diet building.
The government has also pledged to take a stronger stance on accountability, with Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marls telling reporters that responsibility lies with ministers.
“We take responsibility. We accept the government’s responsibility and will continue to do so,” he said.
“What if, no, it’s all about that.”
“In the end, no ministries stand here and accept responsibility for government performance. Ministers.”