A federal government advertising campaign costing taxpayers $38 million and about to go live has drawn trenchant criticism from the Opposition and community groups saying the money would be much better spent elsewhere.
The taxpayer-funded campaign, to be rolled out across all media platforms from this weekend, will run until mid-April when the May 18 or 25 poll is expected to be called.
Titled “Family: the bedrock of our nation’s future” and with the slogan “If families have a go, they’ll get a go” featuring prominently, the campaign blitz will cover print and electronic media across the nation. Saturation coverage has also been planned for social media platforms and even cinema screens.
The Bug has seen some of the television and social media ads, and they heavily feature Prime Minister Scott Morrison, his wife and two daughters skipping happily hand-in-hand along the beach at Cronulla, taking a dip (pictured), having family fun shopping in a Shire supermarket, enjoying a family meal, reading the Bible just before bedtime and singing lustily at a Sunday Hillsong service.
The PM, dressed casually and wearing a baseball cap with the words “Making Australia Great Again” then addresses the camera: “Sure, getting the Australian economy back on track after Labor’s years of debt and deficit disaster is one of my government’s proud achievements. As you would all know, we’ll be back in surplus a year early.
“But this nation’s future prosperity does not rely solely on the type of strong economic management that only the LNP has ever been capable of providing. Families remain the bedrock of our society. Strong families deeply committed to their chosen religion make our country much, much stronger.”
PM Morrison then gives his wife a kiss on her cheek and adds: “I’ve only been married once – to the most amazing woman in the world.”
The ad then directs viewers who want more information on what the government is doing for families through its sound economic policies to families.gov.org.au which has prominent links to the Liberal Party’s membership application and how-to-donate pages.
Asked if the ad campaign was an acceptable use of public money, Mr Morrison said: “Absolutely! A perfectly acceptable and, may I say, urgently needed use of government funds. My government’s only interest is a strong, vibrant and cohesive nation built around time-honoured family values.
“If government funds can’t be spent spreading that wonderful Christian message, for goodness sake, what should they be spent on?”
Mr Morrison then joked: “But if anyone is expecting to see me in red budgie-smugglers, they are going to be very disappointed.”
While Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the ad campaign as a “desperate measure from a desperate government seeking salvation”, some of the nation’s senior political journalists were rather muted in their comments.
Channel 9’s Chris Uhlmann told The Bug: “Is it fair for the government to run campaigns like this at public expense? Probably not, but I think the subliminal message from the campaign is that Morrison is deep down a decent chap, a loving family man who maybe deserves a chance to shine with a mandate of his own?
“If Bill Shorten is elected come May, that will be mean Australia will have had 31 prime ministers since federation, and I don’t know whether that’s good for stability and national advancement.”
The ABC’s Greg Jennett echoed Uhlmann’s comments: “Morrison came to the leadership by accident with no blood on his hands. I do wonder what he might be able to achieve if he’s given a mandate in his own right at the looming poll. Well, at least I believe that might be the persuasive line the government appears to be pushing.”
SkyNews commentator Peter Gleeson said Labor’s high-taxing policies centred around axing negative gearing and franking credits would devastate families across the nation.
“For that reason alone, I think these ‘family values’ ads are spot on and should run throughout the entire campaign right up to polling day. Does anyone seriously believe Australia’s criminal, socialist unions who have Bill Shorten well and truly in their pockets are interested in families?” he said.