May 24, 2007

Adjournment – Advertising Campaigns

Adjournment – Advertising Campaigns

24 May 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (4.30 p.m.)—Today in question time the Prime Minister was asked three direct questions about the government’s climate change community information and education campaign and the Prime Minister gave three very evasive answers. The Prime Minister was asked a question yesterday in relation to government plans for a mail-out to eight million Australian households of a climate change brochure and a personal letter. His answer was:

No such decision has been made by me or, to my knowledge, by the government.

He also said:

I was very careful in the answer I gave.

The truth is that the other night after Senate estimates Mark Tucker, the First Assistant Secretary of the Policy and Coordination Division, tabled a letter to the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts which stated:

Blue Moon Research and Planning Pty Ltd were appointed on a single select arrangement to undertake developmental, formative and evaluation research for the Climate Change Community Information and Education Campaign on 16 April 2007 by the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications.

The campaign has been through the committee. There is a name and a title for it. They are expending a total of $176,000 of taxpayers’ money, market-testing a letter over the signature of the Prime Minister. The Special Minister of State is the minister in charge and he is present in the chamber. He has an opportunity to stand up here as chair of the committee and say that it has not been approved. I am pleased he is here. Today we also asked the Prime Minister:

Isn’t it the case that not only has the ministerial committee, on which Tony Nutt sits as his representative, approved the market research, but the government has also entered into a contract to conduct the Climate Change and Community Information and Education Campaign, which will include a mail-out to all Australians?

This mail-out will be, I predict, a full-colour, fivefold brochure. It will be going out with a covering letter from the Prime Minister. It will have an internet site campaign and an electronic media campaign attached to it.

I call upon the chair of the committee, the Special Minister of State, to stand up at the dispatch box and say that that campaign has not been approved. This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayers’ money and the government needs to come clean. Today in question time we asked these questions because the Prime Minister has Tony Nutt from his office sit on this committee as his representative. He cannot say that he does not know what is going on. Today, when I asked the question, the Prime Minister wandered over to Tony Nutt and consulted him. After question time he asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources to go around to his office, because he knows that there has been a misleading of this parliament. The minister has an opportunity to get to the dispatch box next and say that that is not the case. We also asked, again, a very clear question:

… I refer again to the climate change community information and education campaign, which will include a mail-out to all Australian households. Has the government entered into a contract to conduct this campaign—yes or no?

In response the Prime Minister said:

I refer again to the answer I have previously given.

The fact is that a contract was signed on 16 April. The fact is that there has been a misleading of this parliament, and the minister is confirming it by his silence unless he stands up here and corrects the record. It is misleading for the Prime Minister to suggest that $176,000 of market testing of his covering letter and the brochure is not part of a campaign. That is like saying that sanding a wall is not part of the job of painting the wall. Preparation is a critical part of the job. The Prime Minister yesterday said that he was being ‘very careful’, to quote him, in his denial that a decision had been made. He was not being careful; he was being tricky and he was being cunning. The Australian people will not be misled by a government that has been in denial about climate change for 11 years and then spends their money doing advertising mail-outs to each and every Australian household on something they are denying is occurring. This is an outrageous abuse and the Prime Minister should come in here now and correct the record or have his minister, who chairs this committee, stand up here. I am saying very clearly that this has been approved by the committee which you chair, Minister. If that is not the case, correct the record.