AAP FactCheck

Restoring confidence in public statements by independently testing and verifying the facts

Is the Victorian premier outspending United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer on federal election advertising?

By Brian Kelly, James Lane and Louise Evans

The Statement

"If the election is won or lost in Victoria, it's probably going to be because (Premier) Daniel Andrews is misusing taxpayer money and outspending Clive Palmer in Victoria.”

South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi. April 25, 2019.

The Analysis

Australian Conservatives Senator Cory Bernardi accused Victoria’s Labor Premier Daniel Andrews of spending more on federal election advertising than United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer. [1]

AAP FactCheck has examined Senator Cory Bernardi’s claim that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is misusing taxpayer money and outspending Clive Palmer in Victoria.

AAP FactCheck finds the claim to be false.

Senator Cory Bernardi has been a South Australia senator since 2006 and is the leader of the Australian Conservatives, a minor political party he founded in 2016. [2]

AAP FactCheck asked the United Australia Party for confirmation of its advertising expenditure but received no reply.

A spokesman for Mr Palmer told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in January that the United Australia Party would spend "in excess of $50 million" and more if required. [3]

According to data from global data analytics company Nielsen, Mr Palmer spent $31.7 million on election advertising between September 2018 and April 14 with polling day set for May 18. [4]

Nielsen Ad Intel supplied AAP FactCheck with data which showed from April 8-25, 2019, the United Australia Party spent $1.35 million on advertising in Victoria alone on TV, print and radio, with more than three weeks of the campaign still to run.

The premier launched a publicly-funded federal election advertising campaign on April 14 attacking federal government funding cuts to Victoria’s health care and education systems. The ads call for “Our Fair Share” of funding from “Canberra”. [5] [6]

Mr Andrews told an April 14 media conference at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne the Victorian government was spending $1 million on the advertising campaign. [7]

AAP FactCheck asked Mr Andrews’ office for confirmation of the cost of the advertising campaign and was sent an audio recording of the press conference which confirmed the $1 million figure.

"The fact that we have to invest just over a million dollars in running a campaign to convince all sides of politics in this federal election that Victoria needs a fair share, well, that perhaps says something about our politics,” Premier Andrews said. "This $1 million is a tiny, tiny fraction of the funding that has been taken away.”

Based on this data AAP FactCheck finds Senator Bernardi’s claim that Mr Andrews is outspending Clive Palmer in Victoria to be false.

Regarding Senator Bernardi’s claim the premier’s advertising campaign is a misuse of taxpayers money, the $1 million campaign appears to fall within Victoria’s laws that ban “public sector communication” that influences “public sentiment for or against the current Government of the Commonwealth”. The campaign refers to cuts made by “Canberra” rather than by the coalition or Scott Morrison government. [8]

Victorian opposition treasury spokeswoman Louise Staley said it was an “outrageous” way to spend taxpayers’ money and it was “campaigning for Bill Shorten”. The state opposition has referred government department heads involved in the campaign to Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog. [9]

A spokesman for Mr Andrews said the campaign did not contravene his government’s guidelines on advertising. “Guidelines for advertising on topics of this nature are outlined in the Public Administration Act. The Our Fair Share campaign is strictly in accordance with these provisions,” the spokesperson said. “For most advertising, the relevant public purpose is regulation 4(c) ‘to advocate on behalf of Victoria to advance Victoria’s position or interests’. “That’s exactly what this campaign does - advocate for the best interest of Victorians.” [9]

Regulation 4 of the Public Administration Act states “public sector communication must be in the public interest”. It sets out a number of ‘public interest purposes’ for public sector communication. All public sector communication (including advertising) must fulfil one of the purposes listed below. Section (c) states: “To advocate on behalf of Victoria to advance Victoria’s position or interests.” [10]

AAP FactCheck concludes Mr Palmer’s advertising spend exceeds Mr Andrews’ $1 million campaign and the use of taxpayer’s money appears to fall within government guidelines.

The Verdict

  • False -The checkable claims are all false.

The References

1. Sky New TV. April 25, 2019: https://twitter.com/SkyNewsAust/status/1121392346652741633

2. Australian Conservatives: https://www.conservatives.org.au/cory_bernardi

3. 'At least $50 million: Clive Palmer to spend more than Liberals and Labor in huge election binge', by Max Koslowski. The Sydney Morning Herald. January 17, 2019: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/at-least-50-million-clive-palmer-to-spend-more-than-liberals-and-labor-in-huge-election-binge-20190117-p50rvi.html

4. 'Clive Palmer's political ad spend passes $30m', by Lilly Vitorovich. The Australian. April 22, 2019: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/can-50m-buy-palmer-a-place-in-parliament/news-story/22132232c615e2fdf8d72f54424252e1

5. ‘Our Fair Share’, Education. Daniel Andrews MP. Twitter. April 14, 2019: https://twitter.com/DanielAndrewsMP/status/1117266273497337857

6. ‘Our Fair Share’, Health. Daniel Andrews MP. Twitter. April 14, 2019: https://twitter.com/DanielAndrewsMP/status/1117212167361548288

7.’ New Campaign To Fight For Victoria’s Fair Share’ Victorian Premier media release. April 14, 2019: https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/new-campaign-to-fight-for-victorias-fair-share/

8. ‘Political experts label Andrews Government’s $1m federal election attack ads ‘questionable’’, by Monique Hore. Herald Sun. April 23, 2019: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/political-experts-label-andrews-governments-1m-federal-election-attack-ads-questionable/news-story/726e696973d800e5d36e15ebaf1b8819

9. ‘Premier slammed for $1m campaign’, by Rachel Baxendale. The Australian. April 15, 2019: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/premier-slammed-for-1m-campaign/news-story/ad26e02f08938008975ed048032b8c4d

10. ‘Victorian Government communication guidelines’. Department of Premier and Cabinet. Public Administration Act 2004. Public Administration (Public Sector Communication) Regulations 2018: https://www.content.vic.gov.au/node?page=15

  • First published April 26, 2019 17:50 AEST