Today’s budget could result in a cull of government ad campaigns

Nicola Riches
By Nicola Riches | 3 May 2016

Today’s budget is the last tick on the Coalition’s to-do list before it ramps up its campaigning for the next election.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said an election will likely be held on July 2. However, parliament will not be dissolved until after the budget, at which point ‘caretaker provisions’ come into effect.

It is these ‘rules’ which could affect the number of advertising campaigns the federal government has in play.

Naturally there are conventions which regulate government in the transition – or ‘caretaker’ – phase before an election; provisions which stop a sitting government from putting into place campaigns or policies which could affect the chances – and the potential success – of other political parties.

Therefore, during the caretaker stage, the department of Finance, Prime Minister and Cabinet review all government advertising campaigns and make recommendations as to whether or not they should continue.

According to the current caretaker guidelines (article 6:1) "campaigns that highlight the role of particular Ministers or address issues that are a matter of contention between the parties are normally discontinued, to avoid the use of Commonwealth resources in a manner to advantage a particular party. Campaigns that are of an operational nature, such as defence force recruiting campaigns or public health campaigns, usually continue."

To allow an advertising campaign to continue requires bipartisan agreement.

The Federal Government, like many before it in this period, has rolled out a number of campaigns in the past few weeks, using its position to shore up support with tax payers' money.

Among the campaigns running at the moment are: Domestic Violence ($30m); Building Our Future – Roads and Rail campaign ($unknown); Innovation Agenda ($28m) and a National Security Campaign ($8m), which is thought to be running right up until the election, according to the SMH.

No doubt in the next couple of weeks each of these campaigns will come under scrutiny, and if seen to be serving the vested interests of the Liberals (perhaps the Innovation Agenda – created by Whybin and indeed the National Security – cited as a Mitchell & Partners campaign) will be pulled accordingly.

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