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Money for nothing: How feds spent $200m on political ads

Major parties routinely abuse taxpayer-funded advertising, co-opting public information campaigns for political purposes, a report says.

Oct 10, 2022, updated Oct 10, 2022
The federal government spent $200m on advertising.

The federal government spent $200m on advertising.

The Grattan Institute report found nearly one-quarter of the federal government’s annual $200 million advertising outlay went towards politicised messages.

During the past 13 years, the amount spent federally on advertising that lauded government achievements was worth $630 million, the report says.

The institute says the issue exists on both sides of politics and at state and federal levels.

Among the 10 most politicised federal advertising campaigns during the past 13 years, half came from Labor and the other half from coalition governments.

Grattan Institute chief executive Danielle Wood, the report’s lead author, said the research showed Australians couldn’t rely on the goodwill of government ministers to stop public money being spent for political purposes.

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“Weaponising taxpayer-funded advertising for political advantage wastes public money, undermines trust in politicians and democracy, and creates an uneven playing field in elections,” she said.

The report recommends tougher rules at state and federal levels to stop governments abusing the use of advertising.

Campaigns should only be allowed when they encouraged specific actions, while those that only promoted policies or programs without a call to action should be banned.

“It’s time to ensure that taxpayer-funded advertising is solely for the benefit of the public, not politicians,” Wood said.

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