So Federal Liberal backbencher Peter Slipper has had a go at the Government’s taxpayer funded orgy of political advertising over the IR bills.

“I don’t think the ads are as effective as they should be and if they
are changed I think that would be a positive step forward,” he says. “I
can understand people getting bored by these ads because I don’t think
these ads are good.

“I think the people who designed these ads, the advertising agency or whatever, ought to be looked at very closely.”


And who might they be, Peter? Why, they’re the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications. Top, top political people.

You can read the official line about what they do on Page 69 of the
Annual Report of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
There’s some additional info at the government communications website. The Parliamentary Library has a good paper that
offers a less sanitised yet objective view of their activities. But Radio
National’s The National Interest probably had
the best look at the MCGC back in July.

Here’s what Stephen Bartos, the former Deputy Secretary in the
Commonwealth Department of Finance and Administration, the department
that used to run government advertising until it went to PM&C had
to say about it:

TERRY LANE: Is the Ministerial Committee open to examination, or does it have to account to anybody?

STEPHEN BARTOS: And that’s the real problem. No. Even finding out who
the membership is of the committee is quite hard. You can probably find
out by ringing the Prime Minister’s office, but it’s actually not
revealed on any of the official websites, the Ministerial Committee
itself doesn’t have its own website, it doesn’t report to the
parliament, it doesn’t report to anyone as far as we can tell. So it’s
taking a number of decisions. It’s spending roughly $100 million of
taxpayers’ money each year, and it’s taken the decisions on how that
money will be spent without any accountability through to the
parliament or the people more generally.

If one backbencher in this control freak Government is prepared to go
on the record bagging these guys’ efforts, it’s quite reasonable to
assume that other MPs feel the same way. And they do. In private. MPs
from across the factions and in different leadership camps.

And leadership is a factor here, because the MCGC is driven from
the very top of the Government. Its members include Special Minister of
State Eric Abetz and Tony Nutt, the Prime Minister’s Principal Private
Secretary.

Bartos has had more to say on the Committee members on Radio National’s Media Report :
“Even though it’s called a Ministerial Committee, it doesn’t contain
Ministers other than the Special Minister of State. Last time there was
public information about its membership, it had three other members,
two Liberal Party backbenchers, and Tony Nutt, a member of the Prime
Minister’s staff. The Ministerial Committee on Government
Communications doesn’t have its own website, it doesn’t have its own
publications, it’s just mentioned briefly in a couple of lines in the
Government Communication Unit’s website. Which is a worrying thing
really”.

Those backbench names have included people like Andrew Robb and Petro Georgiou. Smart cookies. Tough cookies.

Yet the Government’s own backbench – even some frontbenchers – think
that we are seeing a massive stuff-up by the brightest and the best. A
massive stuff-up from the very top. A very expensive stuff-up. Perhaps
they need an advertising campaign to counter this perception.