The swashbuckling Noel Turnbull leaps to the defence of poor Sally Young, that biased Leftist academic from Melbourne Uni who is only too happy to make unsubstantiated cheap shots at the Howard Government, all under the cover of parliamentary privilege in a Committee submission. So what does Dr Young want?

“Annual reports on government advertising” – which already occurs in Departments’ annual reports, see the mandatory reporting requirement under s.311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act;

“Annual reports on public opinion research” – ditto, so Sally immediately demonstrates her basic ignorance of the existing law. So much for her being ‘an expert’!

“A stated target for reduction in government advertising spending” – Er, why? Figures from the Parliamentary Library clearly demonstrate that from 1993 onward, the Government spends on average $100m per annum in real terms, the only exception being the New Tax System (which was kind of a big change to Australia’s fiscal operation that people might have wanted to know about, wasn’t it?)

“Auditor-General scrutiny of the content of government ads before they are released” – a job which the AG does not want and would be impossible to do in any meaningful sense, because…

“Guidelines preventing misuse of government advertising for partisan purposes” – the proposed guidelines are so obscure and unhelpful that no public servant could reasonably implement them without immediately being subject to partisan attacks on them by Opposition MPs – even Harry Evans reckons the proposed guidelines are nonsense, and could only be complied with in form, rather than substance!

“Legislation prohibiting misuse of appropriated funds for propaganda designed to aid a political party or candidates” – it already exists and is called the FMA Act.

“Imposing ‘public interest’ licence requirements on broadcasters so that they donate free time for government advertising of a community/public service nature” – golly, nothing like a bit of socialist expropriation of air time to get the juices flowing. Which brings me to the most confusing bit of Noel Turnbull’s diatribe:

“A dangerous and radical set of recommendations? Eric Abetz seemed to think so when he gave evidence to the Senate Inquiry, underscoring his concern by pointing out that Dr Young was biased because she once worked for the ALP for three months.”

Err, no – the SMOS pointed out that she was a hard-core Labor supporter who not only worked as a Labor staffer, but also worked on the Victorian Labor Election campaign, and so hardly brings an unbiased viewpoint to the issue of Government advertising.

I might also point out that she clearly changed her Melbourne Uni website biography to remove the references to her previous ALP work between the time that she wrote the submission and she was exposed as being an anti-Howard leftist. Wonder how and why that happened?

Nor does a media wordcheck indicate her complaining when the Bracks Labor Government adopted a set of advertising guidelines in 2002 that were virtually identical to those in place with the Commonwealth.

Moreover – and this is a giveaway as to her duplicity – she apparently forgot to mention in both her written and oral testimony that she was a senior member of that totally-apolitical-and-perfectly-impartial Fabian Society. Just like her gallant defender, Mr Noel Turnbull.

OK, so she’s a Fabian socialist with Labor Party connections who writes a book for a Left wing publishing house, after both paid and unpaid work for the Labor Party. And she’s supposed to be an impartial academic objectively critiquing the Howard Government’s communications campaigns? Pull the other one.

The Government has comprehensively demolished every complaint from the so-called experts who wrote in to the committee. Their submissions were a mish-mash of ignorance, partisanship, half-truths and outright lies. Read it all for yourself here.

Peter Fray

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