electoral (government advertising) amendment bill 2017


Introduction and First Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (10:44): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Electoral Act 1985. Read a first time.

Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (10:45): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise to speak on the Electoral (Government Advertising) Amendment Bill 2017 and indicate that this bill proposes to amend part 13A of the Electoral Act 1985 relating to election funding, expenditure and disclosure.

Firstly, this bill amends the definition of advertising to include any government political advertising paid for using taxpayers' money. The definition will include an express mention of the name, image or use of the voice of a person who is a member of parliament or a candidate in an election, as per the government's 2015 Marketing Communications Guidelines. Secondly, it provides that the Electoral Commissioner has the power to determine whether the political advertising material is such that spending thereon would fall under the electoral spending cap.

Thirdly, the bill provides a consequential penalty of up to 20 times the funds spent to be repaid from public funding or deducted from the entitlement thereto. To be clear, the bill expressly provides that the penalty that applies to expenditure of this nature that exceeds the cap is to the limit of the public funding. Put simply, even if 20 times is $10 million, if the entitlement is $4 million then the total of $4 million would be payable. In other words, this is not like a fine system but a penalty set off against the gross entitlement of the public fund, which the government party would lose or be required to repay.

Fourthly, the proposal relates to all political advertising from 1 November 2017, so the current government—which we hope will be removed in 149 days—is on clear notice that this legislation, if passed, will be effective 1 November 2017. Every advertisement promulgated and paid for by taxpayers under government advertising will be caught if aired or displayed after 1 November 2017. In addition, in the event that the government should be so churlish—notwithstanding their own guidelines, which they are happy to breach on a daily basis—as to vote down this bill, they are on clear notice that, if elected after the next March election, our side of the house, we will again proceed with this bill and will propose that it cover all government advertising, determined by the Electoral Commissioner, after 1 November 2017. Consequently, that will be taken into account for the purposes of penalty on public funding.

The government will be on clear notice that that is our commitment to the people of South Australia. The people of South Australia are sick to death of turning on their electronic material, televisions, picking up papers and opening them up to see the face of the Premier and ministers promoting their own government, rescuing their own government from the outrage of the public when they see this. The public does not need to have millions of dollars to tell them that the Transforming Health policy is a dud. It is a dud. They do not need the government to desperately promote this as something positive for their future health services.

It is only about them trying to convince the people of South Australia that they are doing a good job in the health zone. Meanwhile, the people of South Australia come to us and say, 'We can't get a bed in the hospital,' or, 'My relative is ramping up in the ambulance area to get into a hospital,' or, 'My relative can't get a wheelchair for their disabled child.' This is the real-life drama and desperate circumstances that the people of South Australia are living in while the government spends millions of dollars trying to promote a health plan which is clearly a dud. It is totally unacceptable; the public will not have it.

To follow on from this, we then have the multimillion-dollar advertising campaign on the government's power plan. This is after they have run our power availability at an affordable price into the ground—in fact, underground. They have utterly failed to provide secure and affordable power to South Australians. Now we read that some 40,000 people cannot even afford to pay their power bills. They are having to make a choice between food or fuel and a power bill. It is completely unacceptable that the government then spends millions of dollars to try to convince us that their battery out in the middle of nowhere, or their diesel generators, are somehow going to make a provision—

The SPEAKER: Jamestown.

Ms CHAPMAN: —for the people of South Australia to be convinced that this is going to rescue them from their plight. That is what they are trying to present to the people of South Australia. It is, in our view, in direct breach of the guidelines, which already say that the expenditure, with the image, name or use of voice, is to be determined as political advertising. They wrote these guidelines. This has been raised before. How many Ombudsman's reports do we have to have to tell us that the government are obviously in error when it comes to political advertising?

What do they do? They just keep trying to change the guidelines and slip their way around to say that you need to hear the plaintive pleas of the Premier in a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to convince you that what you are getting from them is a good deal on power and on health proposals. As for their jobs package, there is another advertising campaign. The only people whose jobs are secure under the government's jobs package advertising plan are those of the Premier and the ministers who sit next to him. They are trying to secure their re-election and convince the people of South Australia, through a shameless multimillion-dollar fraud, and then expect the people of South Australia just to swallow that they have to pay for it. It is just shameful and indicates the priorities of the government.

They want to keep their jobs, and they want to convince the people of South Australia, who will pay for the rubbish that is now being thrown down their throats via a media campaign, that they are doing a good job. It is not acceptable, and we want the Electoral Commissioner to have the responsibility and capacity to say, 'You are not going to get a double-dip here. If you think you are going to be eligible for public funding, that's fine, but if you spend taxpayers money in the meantime on campaigns which are in clear breach of your own guidelines and which will be entrenched in the statute, then you will not get a double-dip. You will not get the millions of dollars which will be available for public funding if you are going to use public funding to go out there and exploit this in the leadup to the election.'

That is not acceptable to the people of South Australia, and the government need to have a very clear message that that is the case. We are already in a situation where the Ombudsman has further inquiries to deal with this, but the government do not care. They are just happy to keep spending the people's money to promote themselves, and it is completely unacceptable. This bill is designed to make it clear to this government, who have been more in the breach than in the observance of their own guidelines in this arena, that they cannot get away with this, nor can they continue to get away with it in the lead-up to the election.

It is as though they are on some spending spree in the last five months to try to salvage what a disgraceful government they have provided to South Australia. We want to put taxpayers' funds back into the priority they should be, and that is in the provision of services and opportunities to ensure that our population has jobs, that our children have a future, that those who are vulnerable have services for health and disability and, of course most importantly, that people can have some of their public expenditure money to be able to turn on the light and not live in this state in candlelight.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.R. Kenyon.