The Australian people deserve answers, not more evasion, on the taxpayer-funded advertising campaign the Abbott Government is using to promote its proposed changes to higher education, Shadow Minister for Higher Education Kim Carr said today.
Senator Carr said that his letter to the Secretary of the Department of Finance asking whether the campaign complied with the Short-Term Interim Guidelines on Information and Advertising Campaigns had been referred to the Secretary of the Department of Education on 10 December and he was still awaiting an answer.
“It is entirely appropriate for a Senate committee to inquire into the campaign,” he said. “Even the Education Minister has accepted that there could be an inquiry on matters relating to the revised higher education Bill. When Mr Pyne spoke to Universities Australia last year he said ‘there might well be a committee process over the summer’.’’
The Government’s proposed changes haven’t been legislated yet, so this campaign can’t seriously be described as providing necessary factual information to the public. It’s a blatant exercise in party-political advertising for which the taxpayer will be expected to pick up a tab of more than $8 million.
“No amount of advertising or slick marketing will convince Australians that Tony Abbott's plan for $100,000 university degrees is a good idea.
“Families are suffering from cuts of $6,000, pensioners are having their pensions cut, millions of sick Australians are being forced to pay a GP Tax and every motorist is paying more petrol tax – and Tony Abbott is using the money to pay for TV ads?
“What disgraceful priorities.”
The Austender website shows that the federal Department of Education has placed a $0.16 million contract with ORIMA Research for market research, a $2.3 million contract with Creative Services for advertising design, a $5.4 million contract with Mitchell Partners for placing the ads, and a $0.3 million contract with Taylor Nelson Sofres for evaluating the campaign – a total of $8.2 million.
“All of this suggests very strongly that the Government is planning a new round of advertising in the lead-up to the next election”, Senator Carr said. “And if the first round is any indication there will be yet more distortion and misinformation.
“The ads we have already seen claim that the Government will contribute 50 per cent of the cost of university fees. But it can’t possibly guarantee this if fees are deregulated so that universities can charge whatever they wish.
“This advertising campaign is a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. The new higher education bill it promotes is as unjust as the bill the Senate rejected last year.
“It will still cut funding for student places by an average of 20 per cent and lead to $100,000 degrees.
“That’s why Labor will continue to fight Mr Pyne’s plan – it’s unfair for students and bad for the country.”