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Political ads burn $46 million hole in taxpayers’ pocket

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison are set to face off in the upcoming federal election. Images: Getty

Australian politicians spent $46 million on advertising in the last six months of 2018, the Department of Finance has revealed amid tensions over taxpayer-funded election advertising.

The secretary of the Department of Finance, Rosemary Huxtable has said the most reliable estimate of spending on political advertising in the current financial year to January was $46 million.

Her estimate, aired today, followed a story published in the Sydney Morning Herald suggesting another $136 million worth of contracts for government advertising had been approved by AusTender since the start of the year, a figure the Labor party has seized upon during a Senate estimates hearing on the matter.

Finance Department officials told the hearing today that 15 campaigns worth at least $250,000 have been approved this year, but would not provide further detail.

Speaking at the same hearing, Labor frontbencher Penny Wong described the lack of detail “outrageous”, and pointed the finger at Assistant Finance Minister Zed Seselja.

“This minister is not going to tell you how much of your money is being spent – brilliant,” she said.

Wong also asked Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to confirm or deny that $600,000 was being spent daily to promote the incumbent government.

However, Cormann said Wong was attempting to find a headline for the evening news, and that her suggestions of over-spending were just conspiracy.

“Just because there is an election around the corner doesn’t mean that we now all of a sudden all have to go into conspiracy theories,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not yet called the date of the upcoming May election, with Labor leader Bill Shorten accusing the government of putting off the call so it can continue to use taxpayer funds for advertising.

“This Government wants to spend tens of millions of dollars in TV advertising to pump up their own tyres,” Shorten said.

“That’s why they’re buying time; so they can spend more of Australians’ money.”

– With AAP.

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