Bad impressions

Scrutiny of government advertising
by Bill Browne

Last year, the Morrison Government spent $145.3 million on campaign advertising, a sum that exceeds the normal annual advertising spend of companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Amazon, Pepsi and Qantas.

Among the minimum $59 million of campaign advertising already announced this year are campaigns that have been extensively criticised for being misleading, co-opted by government MPs and timed to end just before the election period.

The current regulatory model for government advertising is clearly insufficient. A box-ticking exercise by chief executives and sign-off from an independent committee that does not see the actual materials (just the overall strategy) has failed to prevent these controversial campaigns from proceeding.

In 2022, The Australia Institute surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,001 Australians about government advertising. Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the proposition that: “The Auditor-General should be responsible for reviewing government advertising to make sure it meets the genuine information needs of the community.”

Three in four Australians (76%) agree that the Auditor-General should review government advertising to make sure it meets genuine information needs, including 29% who strongly agreed.

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