AdRorts: Comrade Hunt deploys Communist propaganda tactics in government advertising

by | Feb 12, 2021 | Government

“I suspect Orwell would see, as he did back in the 1930s, the rich and outrageous irony of governments using the resources of the people to manipulate them and to keep them acquiescent, passive and apathetic.”

Shadow Minister for Public Accountability, Kelvin Thompson’s introductory remarks for the Government Advertising (Prohibiting use of taxpayers’ money on party political advertising) Bill 2005.

Unfortunately Thompson’s bill never got up. John Howard’s majority saw to that. It has now become widespread practice for Coalition ministers to spend public money advertising their political parties.

Government ministers are using official ministerial announcements as a platform for Liberal Party and National Party advertising, drawing widespread condemnation for misuse of public money.

The dubious practice reached a flashpoint this week after Health Minister Greg Hunt was caught branding an announcement for Pfizer vaccines with the LNP logo. Hunt was questioned about the political party advertising by ABC presenter Michael Rowland and responded with personal insults, branding Rowland a “leftie”.

It was Greg Hunt and Minister for Immigration David Coleman who brought back the practice of branding announcements for regional Australia with the LNP Logo back in 2019.

The Health Minister, however, is not the only MP who has misused ministerial announcements for free party advertising.

For the Liberals, the Minister for Communication Paul Fletcher, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, Minister for Immigration David Coleman, Assistant Minister for Children and Families Michelle Landry and newcomer Fiona Martins have all been found branding their announcements over the past two years.

Liberals Branding

Government MPs have also been interchangeably branding announcements with ‘The Coalition Government’ and ‘The Morrison Government’.

The Nationals have been slower on the uptake.

Nationals MP Pat Conaghan then used the Nationals logo on a post announcing the much-maligned Stronger Communities Program in August 2019. The scheme was labelled a pork barrelling operation, with 95% of its $252 million going to councils in Coalition seats.

When a member of the public contacted Greg Hunt’s office last week inquiring into the legality of this practice, Hunt’s office staff reportedly claimed they didn’t understand the difference between Commonwealth Government logo and the LNP logo, nor the difference between government communication and party marketing. Hunt’s office was quoted as saying “well, the Government is the Liberal Party”.

Interestingly, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, the two most prominent ministers in the government, have not engaged in the practice.

Nationals Branding

While the two use an LNP colour scheme for their announcements, they refrain from using the ‘The Morrison Government’ or LNP logos; although Morrison has retweeted his Ministers using both forms of branding.

It appears that the LNP marketing department has been strengthening their ministers’ branding since mid-2019.

Some Liberal MPs, such as Darren Chester, refrain from party branding, preferring to use the Australian Government logo.

These tweets are only the most recent example of an Australian government using official announcements as party advertising.

In 2005, the Shadow Minister for Public Accountability Labor MP Kelvin Thompson put forward the Government Advertising (Prohibiting use of taxpayers’ money on party political advertising) Bill. The bill was ultimately defeated by the Howard government’s majority.

The Bill’s objective was to:

“require government advertising to meet minimum standards of objectivity, fairness and accountability; and to prohibit the misuse of government advertising for party political purposes.”

If passed, the Bill required government communications to “be presented in a manner free from partisan promotion” and “should avoid party-political slogans or images”.

In Thompson’s introductory speech, he referenced the use of public money by totalitarian regimes in the 1930s to manipulate their citizens into believing the party and the state were one:

“It was George Orwell who saw clearly and nailed in books like Animal Farm and 1984 the way in which the fascist and communist governments of the 1930s used the resources of government to indoctrinate their own populations, manipulating language and elevating political propaganda into an art form.

“One must wonder what Orwell would make of today’s government advertising campaigns if he were still alive. I suspect he would see, as he did back in the 1930s, the rich and outrageous irony of governments using the resources of the people to manipulate them and to keep them acquiescent, passive and apathetic.”

No federal government, Liberal or Labor, has passed legislation to establish official guidelines prohibiting the use of official communication for political gain.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the regulatory body that oversees campaign financing and advertising, denied any responsibility for ministerial communications being used as campaign advertising.

Responding to questions put forward by Michael West Media, Justin Snowden, the acting Director for the AEC, said that “in relation to the actual content of public communications, the AEC has no role in examining the content of such information”.

Snowden added that with an exception for “misleading and deceptive communication”, the AEC “is unable to take any action against these tweets and images where they come from a social media account or website that includes an authorisation as required by the Electoral Act”. The Twitter profiles in question have the required authorisation.

While the Department of Finance provides guidelines on spending for government advertising no other government agencies regulate these types of communication.

The AEC refused Michael West Media’s request for a further interview with their Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.

AdRorts: the latest corrupt practice in a prodigious body of Coalition dirty work

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Callum Foote

Callum Foote

Callum Foote a journalist and Revolving Doors editor for Michael West Media. Callum has studied the impact of undue corporate influence over Australian policy decisions and the impact this has on popular interests. https://www.facebook.com/CallumFooteJourno https://twitter.com/CallumDRFoote

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    It’s an absolutely disgusting practice, and one used by totalitarian governments.

    The fact Howard was prepared to vote this through in 2005 tells you a lot about the integrity of the man and the Liberal Government.

    I truly hope they get voted out at the next election.

    • Avatar

      Voting is insanity – you get the same result over and over.

  2. Avatar

    George Orwell also wrote: A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims…but accomplices.

    Where is the honesty in the electorate when 50% or more of the voting population routinely vote for the Liberal and National parties? Don’t blame the government, have a look at who put them there in the first place.

    I think most people are fundamentally honest, but their honesty becomes non-existent if they continue to support the present government.

    • Avatar

      As I see it registering to vote is a contract to voluntarily consent to all the elected governments actions. I reject that.

      Registering to vote says the AEC means that you are a franchisee of government.

      “Franchise” means a privilege or right granted by government, which means that those elected are not as you imagine your servants but instead that you are subject to whatever a government decrees –

      AEC Quote:

      “..In Australia today, citizens over the age of 18 can vote. Over the years, many people and groups in Australian society have campaigned to ensure that the franchise is enjoyed by all adult citizens.

      On several occasions, Australia has been at the forefront internationally of efforts to extend the franchise. This was the case with the push for women’s suffrage in the late 1800s, and the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 in the 1970s……”

      http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/25/theme2-voting-any-way-you-can.htm

      • Avatar

        I think you have confused two meanings of the word ‘franchise’. A business franchise is indeed a privilege or right granted by a government. But the right to vote (also called franchise) is guaranteed and defined by the constitution, not the government. Those who serve in government are our ‘servants’ in that we can dismiss them from their role as representatives or senators, they cannot dismiss us. Naturally, since the legally elected government is backed by a majority of the people in a democracy, we (the majority) grant that government the right to make decrees affecting all of us, even you. Otherwise you advocate anarchy.

        The AEC quote you offer provides no support for your assertions.

  3. Avatar

    This practice needs to end. Why is there no push for this? Why do the Australian public allow our own money to be used to create political propaganda. I want a real government not a team of marketing execs.

  4. Avatar

    Don’t know what these tactics have to do with communism. Perhaps Callum is too young to realise that it was Russian Communists in WW2 who helped liberate the west from German , Italian and Japanese Fascists. Strangely communist countries have been paying the price ever since.

    By definition Fascism is the collusion of Corporate with the State for the welfare of the few at the cost of the collective. Communism is an entirely different system based on the welfare of the people.

    Such a misleading title made the article itself seem trite, as if the main objective was to make a negative statement about communism.

    And who knows? It is quite possible George Orwell was writing about fascism, possibly even his own British government.

    Also I find it disturbing to see the author labelling a right wing liberal like Hunt a “comrade”. This is mocking and disrespectful to the real comrades of all communist countries around the world most of whom are struggling as we speak for their right to care about people more than the almighty dollar.

    How is it that the so called “left” in Australia is so upset about the possibility of communism and is hardly perturbed by the very real and already entrenched fascism supported by both main parties in Australia?

    • Avatar

      Mosley Oswald – Ten points of fascism (1933)

      • Fascists bind themselves together to serve their country
      • inspired by the same passionate ideal of national service
      • the essence of Fascism is teamwork, the power to pull together and to sink individual interests in the service of the nation.
      • The State will not attempt to conduct industry as it would under Socialism, instead, the State will lay down the limits within which industry may operate, and those limits will be the national welfare.
      • Private ownership will be permitted and encouraged, provided such activity enriches the nation as well as the individual.

      Mosley Oswald – Ten points of fascism (1933)

      https://archive.org/details/tenpointsoswaldmosley

    • Avatar

      So, who owns and controls the money system in the West and who takes all of the profits, leaving us with a few crumbs?

      “…………This author has made the claim again and again that Soviet Marxism has nothing to do with labour, ethics, production or philosophy. It was merely a means to transfer the wealth of labour to the overwhelmingly Jewish members of the Communist Party. Since the party planned all economic production from Moscow, it implies that the party therefore owned all productive capital. What resulted was the most exploitative economic system ever devised, and it was largely accomplished with investment capital from the west……………”

      https://russia-insider.com/en/christianity/russian-church-exile-strongly-and-rightly-supported-hitlers-invasion-russia-amazing

      “Some call it Marxism (Communism), I call it Judaism.” – Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise – The American Bulletin, May 5, 1935. (Judaism is nothing but disguised, camouflaged Communism, therefore, Zionism is nothing but Communism) !!!

      http://www.come-and-hear.com/dilling/chapt11.html

  5. Avatar

    In my old edition of the Australian constitution I see no mention of corporate political parties nor even a prime minister. The LNP is not constitutionally the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, nor is it the Australian government as it is now so called.

    • Avatar

      That is nonsense! The absence of a thing or an idea from the constitution does not automatically make it ‘unconstitutional’. The members of Parliament are not prohibited from forming parties, so the Liberal Party is not prohibited from calling itself the government if a majority of elected representatives choose to join together in a group.

  6. Avatar

    Politicians are unconscionable unaccountable parasites and bludgers lured into the job by the power and glory their little minds want and the too large monetary rewards the tax payer provides.

    • Avatar

      See “George Orwell” quoted above, and reflect on your own complicity in their corruption.

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