So what has the government gained from its decision to exempt its tax reform campaign from its own vetting procedures, a decision that has taken another huge chunk out of Kevin Rudd’s credibility?

Fourteen days.

That’s the how much sooner the government will be able to air its television advertising courtesy of the decision.

Wayne Swan wrote to Joe Ludwig on May 10 asking for an exemption from the normal processes of vetting the advertising campaign that Treasury had been preparing since at least April 20, when the SPBC (that’s the prime minister, deputy PM, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner) allocated $38.5 million for it. A communication strategy was developed and submitted to the government’s new Independent Communications Committee, headed by Dr Allan Hawke. The actual ads themselves, however, were still being prepared.

According to Swan’s letter to Ludwig, the first phase of the campaign, involving press ads, was going to commence on May 30, with TV, radio, press and online to come on June 20 “at the earliest” — the optimal timeframe for shooting and finalising the TV ads. “The benefit of the exemption from the Guidelines will be to ensure that advertising is able to go to air much more quickly,” Swan told Ludwig.

After Ludwig had agreed to the exemption on May 24, Swan replied four days later that radio, press and online advertising would start on May 29, a day earlier than the earlier schedule for the start of the press campaign; TV advertising would start on June 6, two weeks earlier than scheduled.

Reckon the government will get much value from the trade-off of its own credibility for two weeks’ extra ads?

The alternative is that the ICC might not have approved the campaign once the advertising itself was developed. This seems a tad unlikely, however, given it had already approved the strategy and it had approved the government’s health reform ads, which aren’t much different in purpose from the tax reform ads the government will put out.

The government could resolve that particular issue by asking the ICC to have a look at the campaign concurrently with it going to air. The committee could then indicate whether it believes the campaign is within the government’s guidelines. I have a sneaking suspicion it would, mainly because the advertising guidelines are so broad.

Nevertheless, it might help retain what little credibility the government has left on the subject if it allowed the committee to consider the campaign.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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