In the wake of the Federal Budget last week the Morrison Government has ramped up a major taxpayer-funded advertising blitz which the Labor Party claims is politically motivated and provides no real information or benefits to Australians. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg agreed to this interview to discuss the issue with The Bug’s investigative reporter WAYNE KERR.
The Bug: Thank you for agreeing to this interview on government advertising. I know you must be very busy at this time.
Treasurer: That’s okay. It’s not something that taxes me, And speaking of taxes, you know the Budget I delivered…..
The Bug: Sorry, but for starters can you not take every question as an opportunity to give a rehearsed political response?
Treasurer: Sure, and speaking of responses, the Budget I delivered responds to challenging global condition……
The Bug: Hey! What did I say?
Treasurer: Okay, okay. I’ll stop.
The Bug: Thanks. I’m indebted to you for that. You know that sort of crap is not of any interest to our audience.
Treasurer: Sure. Speaking of debt and interest, did you know that under the Budget I delivered the interest bill on government debt will….
The Bug: Oh look, knock it off. You just can’t keep artificially shoehorning into the conversation totally opportunistic responses to questions just to segue into making a political point. You have to be natural in these……
Treasurer: Natural? Sorry to cut you off, but I think I need to change my suit. This blue one just won’t do. Give me a minute or two will you?
The Bug: Um, yeah. If you must.
(The Treasurer leaves the room and returns five minutes later.)
The Bug: Nice suit.
Treasurer: Yeah. I’m back in black, just like……
The Bug: Oh, for fuck sake. Listen sport let’s cut to the chase. Why the hell are you as a government spending millions of dollars in the shadow of an election on advertising that’s so blatantly done for political advantage at taxpayers’ expense?
Treasurer: I deny that. Point to one ad that isn’t delivering information to the public about a service they can access?
The Bug: Look at this full-page ad in the Sunday papers on infrastructure spending (main picture, above). What service does that promote?
Treasurer: Well, we need to tell Australians what we as a government are doing and they can access the infrastructure we’re building.
The Bug: But the ad doesn’t list any projects. You have to visit a website, but what’s the point of that anyway when some projects are not scheduled for later in your 10-year plan? And why would someone reading a paper in Melbourne or Adelaide be interested in projects in Brisbane or Perth?
Treasurer: Well, let me…..
The Bug: But then you not only run full-page ads at great expense in the metro papers, you follow up with individual ads in regional papers, like this in the Townsville Bulletin (pictured), that are clearly aimed at marginal seats. You’re just campaigning on the public purse, aren’t you?
Treasurer: All good questions. But, hey, the ads are running so what are you gonna do?
The Bug: Well, how much is all this advertising costing?
Treasurer: It’s in the Budget, which incidentally lowers taxes, delivers a surplus, cuts debt and…..
The Bug: Oh shut up. Just fuck off. This interview is over.
Treasurer: Right, suits me.
The Bug: Oh, wait, just one last thing. Why are the ads running in Liberal blue?
Treasurer: They’re not.
The Bug: Yes they are. Take a look.
Treasurer: Oh that’s just pure coincidence.
The Bug: Yeah, right.
Treasurer: It’s true. It’s just a coincidence.
The Bug: Really?
Treasurer: Yes, in fact from memory it’s a Pantone colour called Ellen-Pea.
The Bug: Thought so.