Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

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A Bill for an Act to require the Auditor-General to oversee expenditure on government information and advertising campaigns, and for related purposes
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Registered 01 Oct 2010
Introduced Senate 29 Sep 2010



The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia







Presented and read a first time







Preventing the Misuse of Government Advertising Bill 2010


No.      , 2010


(Senator Bob Brown)




A Bill for an Act to require the Auditor‑General to oversee expenditure on government information and advertising campaigns, and for related purposes





Part 1—Preliminary                                                                                                               1

1............ Short title............................................................................................ 1

2............ Commencement.................................................................................. 2

3............ Objects................................................................................................ 2

Part 2—Preventing the Misuse in Government Advertising                         3

4............ Interpretation...................................................................................... 3

5............ Requirements for campaign advertising.............................................. 3

6............ Exemptions......................................................................................... 5

7............ Revision of guidelines......................................................................... 5

8............ Functions of the Auditor‑General...................................................... 6

9............ Powers and independence of the Auditor‑General............................. 6

Part 3—Miscellaneous                                                                                                         8

10.......... Later Acts not to be interpreted as overriding this Act...................... 8

11.......... Regulations......................................................................................... 8

Schedule—Guidelines on campaign advertising                            9

A Bill for an Act to require the Auditor‑General to oversee expenditure on government information and advertising campaigns, and for related purposes

The Parliament of Australia enacts:

Part 1Preliminary


1  Short title

                   This Act may be cited as the Preventing the Misuse of Government Advertising Act 2010.

2  Commencement

                   This Act commences on the day after it receives the Royal Assent.

3  Objects

                   The objects of this Act are:

                     (a)  to establish the framework for accountability of expenditure on government information and advertising campaigns to ensure that campaigns do not contain electoral matter, by:

                              (i)  providing the Auditor General with the powers and functions to review and report on government information and advertising campaigns; and

                             (b)  establishing a process by which Ministers and the Auditor‑General report to the Parliament; and

                             (c)  outlining the principles and guidelines governing the use of public funds for government information advertising campaigns; and

                     (b)  to provide for exemption from those guidelines in cases of national emergency.


Part 2Preventing the Misuse in Government Advertising


4  Interpretation

             (1)  In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears:

agency means an agency subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

Audit Act means the Auditor‑General Act 1997.

campaign means government information and advertising campaign, however described.

campaign advertising guidelines, or guidelines, means the guidelines in the Schedule.

department means the department with administrative responsibility for this Act.

Finance Minister means the Minister with administrative responsibility for this Act.

Minister means the Minister responsible for the agency undertaking a campaign.

             (2)  Unless the contrary intention appears, any term defined in the guidelines has the same meaning in this Part.

5  Requirements for campaign advertising


             (1)  No amount appropriated by any Act is to be expended for any purpose associated with campaign advertising unless the agency undertaking the campaign complies with the principles set out in the campaign advertising guidelines.

Review and report by the Auditor‑General

             (2)  Other than for the purpose of providing the statements required by subsection (3), no amount appropriated by any Act is to be expended for any purpose associated with a campaign with expenditure in excess of $250,000 unless:

                     (a)  the Chief Executive of the agency has given to the Auditor‑General the statements required by subsection (3); and

                     (b)  the Minister has approved and authorised the development  of the campaign; and

                     (c)  the Auditor‑General has provided to the Minister a report on the compliance of the campaign with the guidelines.

             (3)  When seeking a review of a campaign by the Auditor‑General, the Chief Executive of the agency must give to the Auditor‑General:

                     (a)  a statement setting out the following:

                              (i)  the purpose and nature of the campaign;

                             (ii)  the intended recipients of the information to be communicated by the campaign;

                            (iii)  the name of the person who is to authorise the campaign;

                            (iv)  the manner in which the campaign is to be carried out;

                             (v)  the name of the person or the entity that is to carry out the campaign;

                            (vi)  whether the campaign is to be carried out under a contract;

                           (vii)  whether such contract is to be let by tender;

                           (viii)  the estimated cost of the campaign; and

                     (b)  a statement certifying that the Chief Executive of the agency is satisfied that the campaign complies with the campaign advertising guidelines.

Reports to Parliament

             (4)  The Minister must cause a copy of each of the statements mentioned in subsection (3) to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 7 days of giving the statement to the Auditor‑General.

             (5)  If the Minister cannot comply with subsection (4) because a House is not scheduled to sit during that period the Minister must, within that period:

                     (a)  give a copy of each statement to the Presiding Officer of the House, for presentation to that House; and

                     (b)  cause a copy of each statement to be published on the agency’s website.

             (6)  The Auditor‑General must give to the Presiding Officer of each House of the Parliament, for presentation to that House, a copy of each report provided to a Minister for the purposes of subsection (2), at the same time as providing it to the minister.

6  Exemptions

             (1)  Despite anything in the guidelines, a campaign may not be exempted from the guidelines other than in accordance with this section.

National emergency exemption

             (2)  The Minister may seek an exemption from compliance with the guidelines on the basis of a national emergency, in accordance with clause 9 of the guidelines.

             (3)  The exemption expires when the national emergency has ended.

             (4)  National emergency has the meaning prescribed in the regulations.

Auditor‑General’s review and report

             (5)  As soon as practicable after a campaign is exempted from the guidelines in accordance with this section, the Minister must seek a review of the campaign by the Auditor‑General in accordance with the procedures set out in subsection 5(2).

7  Revision of guidelines

             (1)  The regulations may revise the guidelines.

             (2)  Before the Governor‑General makes regulations for the purposes of subsection (1), the Finance Minister must:

                     (a)  cause a draft of the revised guidelines to be published on the department’s website; and

                     (b)  invite and consider public submissions on the draft; and

                     (c)  consult with the Auditor‑General on the draft; and

                     (d)  cause a report on the consultation process to be tabled in each House of the Parliament.

             (3)  Regulations made for the purposes of subsection (1) must not commence until the disallowance period for the regulations has expired, unless they are first approved by resolution of each House of the Parliament.

8  Functions of the Auditor‑General

                   The Auditor‑General’s functions include the following:

                     (a)  considering campaigns as specified in this Part and in the guidelines;

                     (b)  reporting on the compliance of campaigns with the guidelines;

                     (c)  reporting to each House of the Parliament on matters connected to those guidelines;

                     (d)  providing advice to the Minister and the Parliament on the operation of the guidelines and on any proposal by the Minister to revise the guidelines;

                     (e)  any other function necessary or convenient to enable the Auditor‑General to undertake a function assigned to the Auditor‑General under this Part.

Note:          Section 22 of the Audit Act provides that the Auditor‑General’s functions include any functions given to the Auditor‑General by any other Act.

9  Powers and independence of the Auditor‑General

                   To avoid doubt, in undertaking functions under this Part, the Auditor‑General has:

                     (a)  the powers given to the Auditor‑General under the Audit Act; and

                     (b)  the independence and complete discretion in the performance or exercise of functions or powers given to the Auditor‑General under the Audit Act.

Part 3Miscellaneous


10  Later Acts not to be interpreted as overriding this Act

             (1)  An Act enacted at or after the commencement of this section is not to be interpreted as:

                     (a)  amending or repealing, or otherwise altering the effect or operation of, a provision of this Act; or

                     (b)  authorising the making of an instrument amending or repealing, or otherwise altering the effect or operation of, a provision of this Part.

             (2)  Subsection (1) does not affect the interpretation of an Act so far as that Act provides expressly for that Act to have effect despite this Act, or despite a specified provision of this Act.

11  Regulations

                   The Governor‑General may make regulations prescribing matters:

                     (a)  required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed; or

                     (b)  necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.

ScheduleGuidelines on campaign advertising




1. These guidelines set out the principles applying to Australian Government departments and agencies undertaking information and advertising campaigns.

2. Government information and advertising campaigns with expenditure in excess of $250,000 must be reviewed by the Auditor‑General, who will report on the proposed campaign’s compliance with these guidelines. A Minister responsible for a campaign with expenditure of $250,000 or less may ask the Auditor‑General to review that campaign’s compliance with these guidelines where the campaign is of a sensitive nature or the Minister considers that such review is appropriate.

Underlying principles

3. In general terms, a campaign is a planned series of communication activities that share common objectives, target the same audience and have specific timelines and a dedicated budget.

4. The underlying principles governing the use of public funds for government information and advertising campaigns (‘campaigns’) are that:

                       a.  all members of the public have equal rights to access comprehensive information about government policies, programs and services which affect their entitlements, rights and obligations;

                       b.  governments may legitimately use public funds for information programs or education campaigns to explain government policies, programs or services and to inform members of the public of their obligations, rights and entitlements; and

                       c.  government campaigns shall not be conducted for party political purposes.

Administrative process

5. Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (‘agencies’) must comply with the guidelines for all campaigns, whether delivered by the agency, third parties or jointly delivered, where the Commonwealth has committed to expenditure of $250,000 or more.

6. Agencies must also comply with all policies and processes in relation to government campaigns which are issued and amended from time to time by the Cabinet Secretary or the agency responsible for such policies, currently the Department of Finance and Deregulation (‘Finance’).

7. Government campaigns can be approved for launching by a Minister only when:

                       a.  the Chief Executive of the agency undertaking the campaign certifies that the campaign complies with the guidelines and relevant government policies; and

                       b.  for those campaigns with expenditure in excess of $250,000, the Auditor‑General provides a report to the Minister responsible for the agency undertaking the campaign on the proposed campaign’s compliance with the guidelines.

8. The Chief Executive’s certification will be published on the relevant department’s web site when the campaign is launched. Chief Executives will ensure that:

                       a.  research reports for advertising campaigns with expenditure of $250,000 or more are published on their agency’s web site following the launch of a campaign where it is appropriate to do so; and

                       b.  details of advertising campaigns undertaken will be published in agency annual reports.

9. The Cabinet Secretary can exempt a campaign from compliance with these guidelines on the basis of a national emergency. Where an exemption is approved, the Auditor‑General will be informed of the exemption and the reasons for the decision will be formally recorded and reported to the Parliament as soon as practicable.

10. The Government will make publicly available the expenditure for all campaigns commissioned by any agency.

Definition of campaign advertising

11. For the purposes of these Guidelines, an advertising or information campaign designed to inform, educate, motivate or change behaviour. Large‑scale recruitment advertising not related to specific job vacancies and with a degree of creative content may be considered an advertising campaign. Agencies must seek advice from Finance if they are unsure whether an activity is an advertising campaign.

12. Non‑campaign advertising includes, but is not limited to:

                       a.  recruitment for specific job vacancies;

                       b.  auction and tender notices;

                       c.  invitations to make submissions or apply for grants;

                       d.  notification of date and/or location specific information (for example, notification of a public meeting at a particular time and place); and

                       e.  other public notices.

13. ‘Campaign costs’ include those activities involved in the development, production and dissemination of information to the public about Government programs, policies and matters which affect their benefits, rights and obligations. Examples of these activities include:

                       a.  the use of market research agencies, public relations consultants, advertising agencies and/or other specialist consultants in the development of such material; and

                       b.  the production of press, radio, on‑line, other electronic media, cinema and television advertisements, audio‑visual material and printed material (pamphlets explanatory booklets, etc).

Guidelines for campaign advertising

14. Consideration must be given to information requirements during policy development and program planning. Campaigns must be instigated only where a need is demonstrated, target recipients are clearly identified and the campaign is based on appropriate research.

15. The requirements for review and certification of campaigns are determined by the value of the campaign. The value of a campaign is the budget for all campaign elements across all financial years and includes:

                       a.  market or social research consultants, public relations consultants, advertising agencies and/or other specialist consultants commissioned in the development of advertising material;

                       b.  production and placement of advertising in print, radio, digital, cinema, television or out‑of‑home media; and

                       c.  production and dissemination of other campaign materials.

16. The value of a campaign does not include departmental staff and associated costs.

Guideline 1:  Material must be relevant to government responsibilities

17. The subject matter of material to be communicated to the public must be directly related to the Government’s responsibilities. As such, only policies or programs underpinned by legislative authority, appropriation of the Parliament, or a Cabinet Decision which is intended to be implemented during the current Parliament, should be the subject of an advertising campaign.

18. Examples of suitable uses for government campaign advertising include to:

                       a.  inform the public of new, existing or proposed government policies, or policy revisions;

                       b.  provide information on government programs or services or revisions to programs or services to which the public are entitled;

                       c.  disseminate scientific, medical or health and safety information; or

                       d.  provide information on the performance of government to facilitate accountability to the public.

Guideline 2:  Material must be presented in an objective, fair and accessible manner

19. The material communicated must be presented in an explanatory, fair, objective and accessible manner. Specifically, information in campaigns must be directed at the provision of objective, factual and explanatory information and enable the recipients of the information to reasonably and easily distinguish between facts, on the one hand, and comment, opinion and analysis on the other.

20. Where information is presented as a fact, it must be based on accurate, verifiable facts, and expressed in conformity with those facts. No factual claim should be made which cannot be substantiated. When making a factual comparison, the material must not attempt to mislead the recipient about the situation with which the comparison is made and it must state explicitly the basis for the comparison.

21. Pre‑existing policies, products, services and activities must not be presented as new.

22. Special attention must be paid to communicating with any disadvantaged individuals or groups which are identified as being within the designated target audience. Particular attention must be given to the communication needs of young people, the rural community and those for whom English is not a convenient language in which to receive information.

23. There must be recognition of the full participation of women, ethnic and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities in Australian society by realistically portraying their interests, lifestyles and contributions to Australian society. Care must be taken that this is not done in a stereotypic way.

Guideline 3:  Material must not be directed at promoting party political interests

24. Material must be presented in a manner free from partisan promotion of government policy and political argument, and in objective language. The dissemination of information using public funds must not be directed at fostering a positive impression of a particular political party or promoting party political interests. Dissemination of information may be perceived as being party‑political because of any one of a number of factors, including:

                       a.  the content of the material ‑ what is communicated;

                       b.  the source of the campaign ‑ who communicates it;

                       c.  the reason for the campaign ‑ why it is communicated;

                       d.  the purpose of the campaign ‑ what it is meant to do;

                       e.  the choice of media ‑ how, when and where it is communicated;

                       f.  the timing, geographic and demographic targeting of the campaign;

                       g.  the environment in which it is communicated; or

                       h.  the effect it is designed to have.

25. The information and material presented in a campaign must not:

                       a.  mention the party in government by name;

                       b.  directly attack or scorn the views, policies or actions of others such as the policies and opinions of opposition parties or groups;

                       c.  include party‑political slogans or images;

                       d.  be designed to influence public support for a political party, a candidate for election, a Minister or a Member of Parliament; or

                       e.  refer or link to the websites of politicians or political parties.

Guideline 4:  Material must be produced and distributed in an efficient, effective and relevant manner, with due regard to accountability

26. Campaigns must be justified by a cost/benefit analysis which would be best done after preparation of the communications strategy and consultant briefs. The nature of the campaign, including the method, medium and volume of the publicity activities, must be justified in terms of society’s needs, efficiency and effectiveness, and there must be a clear audit trail regarding decision making.

27. Campaigns must be supported by a Communications Strategy. The strategy includes the campaign objectives and measures of success, which allows evaluation of the campaign to be undertaken at key milestones and to determine, for example:

                       a.  That communication messages and mediums remain effective;

                       b.  That the target audience remains appropriate; and

                       c.  When objectives have been achieved.

28. Existing procurement policies and procedures for the tendering and commissioning of services and the employment of consultants must be followed.

29. Campaigns must be evaluated to determine effectiveness.

Guideline 5:  Advertising must comply with legal requirements

30. Campaigns and related material, the manner of presentation and the delivery of the campaign must comply with all relevant laws including:

                        •  laws with respect to broadcasting and media;

                        •  privacy laws;

                        •  intellectual property laws;

                        •  electoral laws;

                        •  trade practices and consumer protection laws; and

                        •  workplace relations laws.

31. Distribution of unsolicited material must be carefully controlled. The information conveyed must clearly and directly affect the interests of recipients.