Details of the plan the Morrison government will take to the COP26 climate talks remain shrouded in secrecy, but senate estimates has heard the government will spend $12.9 million of taxpayer funds on an advertising campaign that claims credit for Australia’s increasing uptake of renewables and cuts in emissions.
Details of the costs of the “Making Positive Energy” advertising campaign were disclosed by officials from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources during a senate estimates hearing on Monday.
The eye-watering sum includes a $10.45 million spend on television, cinema and billboard advertising, and $1.78 million spent on the development of advertising content, including graphics and commercials, for the campaign.
The taxpayer-funded advertising campaign promotes Australia’s progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the increase in renewable energy technologies, and has primarily been run in the lead up to the COP26 talks in Glasgow.
The campaign’s materials promote Australia as a leader in the uptake of solar energy and as supporting the increased use of renewables in industry and hydrogen production.
The campaign does not mention the significant role played by state and territory governments – which have stepped in to fill a policy gap left by successive Coalition governments, which tried to pull down most of the policies responsible for the boom in renewables.
eh, the Morrison government is launching a new advertising campaign in an attempt to win support for its energy policies.
It's locally focused, so about convincing Australians, rather than the rest of the world.
Called "Australia's making positive energy" – just watch: pic.twitter.com/vBidcdrhfw
— Michael Mazengarb (@MichaelM_ACT) September 19, 2021
Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor launched the campaign in September, saying that the campaign was about “informing Australians about our strong track record and future plans to reduce our emissions while supporting Australian jobs and maintaining prosperity.”
Department officials listed a total of eight contracts for services as part of the advertising campaign.
This includes a $488,328 contract for market research conducted by IPSOS, which concluded that Australians wanted to “hear more about what the government is doing to reduce emissions”, and which formed the primary motivation for the advertising campaign.
The campaign expenditure also includes a $600,000 contract with Horizon Communications for “public relations” services, including management of the campaign’s social media channels and advice on how the campaign should be targeted.
The advertising content contract of $1.78 million was awarded to advertising firm The Monkeys. The contract was originally quoted at $127,000 but was subsequently increased by a further $1.65 million on September 24 – shortly after the campaign started, tender documents show. A further $137,522 was spent on the development of a website for the campaign by Oxide Interactive.
Department officials said the advertising campaign targeted “Australians over the age of 18” and was not being used to promote Australia’s policies overseas.
It was also confirmed that all but $70,000 of the campaign’s expenditure had already been committed and would not be spent communicating a looming commitment to a zero net emissions target for 2050.
While taxpayers are footing for the bill for the campaign, it was claimed that number of Liberal party politicians had used parts of the campaign’s materials for their own social media pages – with department officials forced to clarify whether it was appropriate for publicly funded advertising to be used in a party political manner.
“I’m required to certify a campaign which has been developed in order to do two things; one, promote and endorse the activities of the Australian government, and secondly, in accordance with that statement, ensure myself that it’s not being developed for party political purposes,” department secretary David Fredericks told the hearing.
Fredericks said that while he was satisfied that the campaign had not been developed for ‘party political purposes’, he needed to seek additional information about the potential use of the campaign’s materials by members of the Liberal party.
The Prime Minister for Marketing has spent $12.9 million on a marketing campaign to advertise Australian’s emissions reductions.
6 days before COP26 we don’t have a settled climate policy – but Scott Morrison has a $12.9m advertising campaign. #auspol
— Senator Nita Green (@nitagreenqld) October 25, 2021
Officials also confirmed that while $12.9 million had been allocated to the advertising campaign, just $6.7 million in funding would be spent on the development of the Morrison government’s Technology Investment Roadmap and Long-Term Emissions Reduction Strategy.
“So we’ve got $12 million spent on advertising the government’s position, but we don’t actually have a policy to take to COP yet, with six days to go. $12 million spent on an advertising campaign, lots of effort that’s gone into this, lots of contracts, lots of work, but we still don’t have a policy to take to COP,” Labor senator Nita Green queried.
Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who represents Angus Taylor during senate estimates hearings, rejected the suggestion.
“No, I don’t accept the premise. What this is doing is, as officials have said out, is responding to that clear desire for the public to know what is happening in this space. To make sure that there is an understanding of the very substantial gains that Australia has made when it comes to reducing our emissions, and that high take-up of solar is a great international story,” Seselja said.
Note: Figures relating to the amount of spending on advertising content, and website development, have been corrected.