Media Circus, the Brisbane-based media agency involved in Clive Palmer's federal election campaign, and this week revealed by The Australian as having received $2.167 million in Chinese government cash, has a link to Aegis Media, and through that, to Japanese-owned media giant Dentsu.
The links have emerged in the same week that Aegis-owned Mitchell & Partners assumed full control of the Federal Government's media account.
Media Circus has no direct involvement with Palmer United Party but was subcontracted by another Brisbane ad agency, Coroneo, that does work directly for Palmer. Media Circus is operated by Teena Jameson and partner Jon Cole. Jameson founded Mitchell & Partners Brisbane in 2000. In 2011 she left the firm to launch Media Circus as a joint venture with Aegis Media.
London-based Aegis bought out the media empire built by Harold Mitchell, Mitchell Communication Group, in 2010 in a deal worth $363 million.
Hedley Thomas reported in The Australian on Tuesday that new evidence suggesting that Chinese government money had been directed to the media agency via a bank account called Port Palmer Operations was likely to be referred to fraud squad detectives in Queensland and Western Australia by Citic Pacific.
Citic is the Chinese state-owned firm investigating whether its money was used to fund Palmer's election campaign rather than to run an iron ore port in WA.
Jameson has been ordered to produce documents relating to the agency's pre-election work for Clive Palmer, The Australian reported, after it examined filings obtained from the Supreme Court of Queensland on Monday. It also reported that Media Circus had been subcontracted by Brisbane full service advertising agency Coroneo. AdNews contacted Media Circus and was told that Jameson was on holiday for two weeks. The agency directed calls to Coroneo, which declined to comment.
While the media activities and money trail under scrutiny relate to last year's election, and have no link to Mitchell & Partners, it is noteworthy that the Aegis-owned agency won the Federal Government media buying account in April this year.
Mitchell & Partners picked up the account, worth an estimated $159m in 2013 according to Nielsen data, from UM. Following a three month handover, Mitchells this week assumed responsibility for all Australian government campaign and non-campaign media expenditure.
Clive Palmer has dismissed allegations that he used Chinese money to fund his campaign as "complete untruth".
AdNews contacted the Federal Government media team, the Palmer United Party, Aegis Media and Dentsu for comment prior to publication.
Updated: The Federal Government finance department has issued the statement below.
From 1 July 2014, Mitchell & Partners Australia Pty Ltd, in alliance with Adcorp Ltd, is the Australian Government’s contracted master media agency.
Mitchell & Partners was appointed following a competitive open tender process undertaken by the Department of Finance, informed by a media industry expert, Trinity P3, and overseen by an independent legal and probity adviser, Sparke Helmore.
The Australian Government, through its contract with Mitchell & Partners, has no connection with, or requirement for services from, Media Circus. Mitchell & Partners has advised there is no operational connection between it and Media Circus.
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