Saturday, May 26, 2007

How else can we burn taxpayer's dollars? Let's see... how about $23 million promoting our 'middle course' on climate change?

Labor says the Prime Minister has serious questions to answer after denying in parliament this week that he or his office or department had approved a government-funded advertising blitz dealing with climate change.

On Friday the Sydney Morning Herald revealed details of the brief issued to advertising agencies for a $23 million campaign to sell the government’s “leadership role” and “balanced voice” on global warming.

The brief asks the agencies to “position the Government as the primary balanced voice on climate change”, showing it as taking a middle path between global warming “skeptics” and “doomsayers”.

The brief says the campaign will kick off on June 18, two weeks after Mr Howard delivers a keynote address on climate change to the Liberal Party’s 2007 Federal Council at the Westin Hotel in Sydney.

As part of the first phase of the campaign a booklet of advice on how to be “carbon neutral” would be sent to 7 million Australian homes...

The brief names Richard Davies, from the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, as one of those involved in its planning.

On Wednesday in parliament the Prime Minister was asked to confirm whether the government was planning to mail to every Australian household a taxpayer funded, full colour brochure on climate change with a personal covering letter from himself.

He replied that no such decision has been made by him or, to his knowledge, by the government. Mr Howard added later that he had been “very careful” in the answer he gave.

The Prime Minister is due to receive the report of his high-level taskforce on emissions trading on Thursday, three days before his address to the Liberal Party Federal Council.

Addressing a business luncheon in Bathurst yesterday he said it had been put together by senior public servants including the head of his department, the head of Treasury, and the head of Foreign Affairs and also representatives of Australia’s major resource companies.

“This is the sensible way to deal with climate change - to get a cooperative piece of advice from your experts and also from industries that are going to be affected, and then plan in a measured sensible way into the future,” Mr Howard said.

A Senate estimates committee heard this week that the government had spent a total of $111 million on advertising in the first nine months of this financial year, a figure that did not include so-called “non-campaign advertising”.