Appendix 5: Examples of Australian approaches to government and parliamentary publicity and advertising


1. Part 5 of this report has been informed by several examples of positive administrative practice that we identified in Australia at the Federal Government level, and at State Government level in New South Wales. We note that none of these systems are fully proportional.

2. The specific examples were:

  • in relation to government publicity:
    • the central co-ordination of government publicity and advertising; and
    • the use of guidelines for government department branding;
  • in relation to parliamentary publicity:
    • more active monitoring and oversight of advertising resources used by MPs; and
    • provision of guidance to MPs and Ministers about their individual responsibilities in relation to the public resources they use.

3. We also noted that certain expenses incurred by MPs were disclosed in the interest of financial transparency and public accountability.

Government publicity and advertising-related examples

4. We have made a range of comments in our report about the oversight of State sector advertising.

5. In Australia, the Government Communications Unit (GCU) plays a significant procurement role in State sector advertising. The GCU’s role involves:

  • maintaining a whole-of-government overview of current and forecast communications activities;
  • providing advice on communications best practice, including research, public relations, and advertising, to government departments and agencies;
  • monitoring current industry developments and trends;
  • maintaining a register of communications consultants (including advertising agencies, public relations consultants, market research companies, graphic designers, writers and the like) interested in undertaking government work, which is drawn on by government departments and agencies seeking to engage consultants for communications activities;
  • assisting in developing communications strategies and briefs for consultants; and
  • managing a central advertising system, to achieve effective media planning and cost-effective media placement for government advertising.*

6. We also noted that the Commonwealth Government of Australia has introduced a new branding design for government departments and agencies, intended to –

…improve recognition of the many policy initiatives, programmes and financial services delivered across the Australian Government.

7. In this regard, GCU has prepared Branding Design Guidelines, which provide information about the different elements of the design and guidance on common applications.**

Parliamentary publicity and advertising-related examples

8. The soundness of the systems, policies, and procedures for oversight and administration of publicity and advertising resources used by MPs is a specific focus of this report. We found positive examples of how such matters are approached in Australia.

9. In New South Wales, members of the Legislative Assembly are provided with Electorate Mail-out Accounts, to assist them to communicate with their electorates using publications, letters, flyers, brochures, and newsletters. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly has promulgated specific instructions for the administration and use of this entitlement. The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly has the role of making sure that the instructions are complied with.

10. The instructions include the following requirements:

  • the accounts must not be used for electioneering or political campaigning;
  • the month and year of printing must be shown on the publication, and the publications must be distributed in the same month of printing, or the following month;
  • publications cannot be issued on behalf of a lobby group, political party, charity or other special interest group;
  • publications are not to be distributed with electioneering or campaign material which is funded from non-parliamentary sources;
  • members are not permitted to pre-purchase letterhead, paper, envelopes or postage stamps, or other services for future mail-outs; and
  • members are recommended to supply a proof copy of the publication to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly before printing, to confirm that the content complies with the instructions.

11. Administrators use a checklist to help them to review printed material that members wish to have funded through their mail-out accounts.

12. We were also interested to note that the disclosure of information about MPs’ entitlements is an approach used in Australia to help satisfy financial transparency and public accountability expectations. In New South Wales, the travel expenditure of Members of the Legislative Assembly, their spouses, and electorate office staff are disclosed in the Legislative Assembly Annual Report.

13. Finally, we were impressed with the guidance published by the Department of Finance and Administration in the Commonwealth Government of Australia for Senators and Members, which provides useful clarification of the roles of administrators, in contrast to that of the Members who access services –***

…While Ministerial and Parliamentary Services can provide advice and assistance, it remains the responsibility of the Senator or Member to satisfy themselves that their use of parliamentary entitlements is lawful. It is also in the Senator’s or Member’s interest to satisfy themselves that it is publicly defensible.

In deciding whether or not to access taxpayer-funded entitlements, it would be advisable for Senators or Members’ to adopt a risk assessment approach by asking themselves the following questions:

Clearly yes Fully defensible Low risk
Technically yes Some difficulty in defending policy Medium risk
Arguably yes May/would attract criticism High risk
Clearly no Would certainly attract criticism Unsafe/unlawful

* See

** See

*** Australian Government Department of Finance and Administration, A Guide to the Entitlements of Senators and Members, Commonwealth of Australia 2004.

page top