Rule change to let MPs spend millions more taxpayer dollars on ads

After committing more than $200 million to advertising in the last year, the federal government has moved to change regulations which would free Mp’s taxpayer-funded electoral allowances to be used in radio and television advertisements, something the Conservative Party strongly opposes.

Queensland Conservative Party Senate candidate Lyle Shelton says, “Like the push to restore taxpayer-funded windfall profits from electoral funding, this is yet another example of politicians gaming the system. They should pay for their own TV ads, not the taxpayer.”.

The Conservative Party highlights that this latest out-of-touch measure by government to feather their own nests underscores our campaign to Burst the Canberra Bubble.

The Guardian reports, it would effectively mean that MPs would have an additional $22 million to run TV and radio ads at the upcoming federal election.

The current budgeted office expenses allow for just under $110,000 for every senator and more than $136,647 for every lower house MP.

The money is earmarked for MPs to inform constituents of events and news in their electorates, and is often used for a semi-regular newsletter detailing that MP’s achievements, or parliamentary speeches, as well as social media spending.

But with an election due within three months and many MPs in close contests complaining of tight budgets, freeing the electoral office allowance for broadcast use is being viewed as a potential boon.

Labor has vowed to challenge the changes, which do not have to be legislated and will amount to an extra $22 million of taxpayer funds being made available for political advertising, on top of the $200m the government has committed to advertising campaigns since January last year.

Scott Morrison, who criticised Labor for its advertising spend in 2013, said last month he believed it was “entirely appropriate for Australians to understand what their government is doing”.

This month in the Senate, Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi raised the alarm that attempts were being made to amend public funding reforms the government passed last year, which limited public reimbursement for election campaigns to amounts that were actually spent.

Previously, any party or independent candidate that received more than 4% of the first preference vote received $2.73 per vote, a system which delivered One Nation $1.7m in taxpayer funds after the 2016 election.

Bernardi said there was a push to reverse the changes, “Since then there has been a serious agitation across the crossbench by staff members of MPs to have these changes reversed and whilst publicly many will say last year’s decision was a good one, they are advocating behind the scenes for windfall profits. It is absolutely wrong they have taken the case strongly to government. I will do everything I can to stop the change.”