SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

12 February 2016

TURNBULL GOVERNMENT DIVERTS BUSINESS PROMOTION FUNDS FOR POLITICAL ADVERTISING

TOPICS: SENATE ESTIMATES, TRADE

The Turnbull Government has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars earmarked for informing businesses about export opportunities on a politically-motivated mass media advertising campaign.

Austrade officials told Senate estimates last night the advertising campaign had been targeted to reach every Australian aged 18 years and over – more than 18 million people – even though there were only around 45,000 exporting businesses in Australia.

In last year’s Budget, the Government said it would spend $25 million over the next two financial years to “promote business understanding” of Australia’s North Asian Free Trade Agreements and to assist businesses to take advantage of export opportunities.

But Austrade revealed that the Government had instead concentrated the bulk of the spending in a $14 million, three-month television, radio and print advertising blitz late last year.

The ad blitz ran from September to November on radio and from October to December on television, just as Parliament was debating the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Information provided to Senate estimates showed the television advertising alone was designed to deliver 695 to 895 Target Audience Rating Points.

This means every member of the “target audience” – all Australians of voting age – could be expected to see the television advertisements around eight times on average.

The advertisements were aired on the three commercial free-to-air networks, on SBS TV, community stations and on dozens of Pay TV stations including FOX Sports, FOX Footy and ESPN.

It is clear that funds which were meant to be used to inform SMEs about how to utilise the North Asian FTAs have been spent instead on a politically-motivated mass-market advertising campaign.

At a time when Australian small businesses have been saying the FTAs are too complex to understand, cluttered with red tape and difficult to access, this is a waste of taxpayer funds which shows the Government puts its own political interests ahead of the country’s economic interests.