The Brumby Government has been caught out using taxpayer funds to drive its own political agenda in an attempt to avoid blame over its failure to act on Melbourne’s water shortages, Shadow Minister for Regional and Rural Development and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan said today.
Mr Ryan said Freedom of Information documents obtained by the Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition showed a panicked Labor Government’s true intention behind its 2007 Wonthaggi Desalination Plant advertising campaign.
“These documents show that Labor splurged $1.5 million dollars of taxpayer money on a brazen spin campaign to cover up its failure to augment Melbourne’s water supplies, with the government’s project brief instructing bidders for the lucrative contract to portray Labor in a positive light,” Mr Ryan said.
The project brief, which was prepared by the government and provided to six advertising agencies, stated:
• “Melburnians believe that water restrictions … represent a shared adversity on a par with the sacrifices of wartime or natural disaster”
• “The Government needs to be seen to be responsive … A serious tone is needed to convey the underpinning thought ‘they know what they are doing’.”
Mr Ryan said the embarrassing FOI documents also revealed:
• The winning bidder’s proposal would make the Premier’s every word as always being heard strongly and clearly, while still allowing the sound of the helicopter: “The exciting thing about a helicopter is the vibrant nature of the sound ¬– loud, fast and full … like the film ‘Apocalypse Now’.”
“Labor has blurred the lines on what is acceptable in government advertising, with guidelines stating public funds should not be used to promote government members ‘in a manner that a reasonable person would regard as excessive or gratuitous’,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said the government’s desired objective to cover up its failures was obvious, and was outlined in the proposal of winning bidder Shannon’s Way.
“The unique expertise of Shannon’s Way in both political and water campaigns has taught us many lessons about what to say and how to say it.” (Shannon’s Way Desalination advertising campaign project bid)
“After years of inaction and a failure to develop adequate infrastructure to secure Melbourne’s water needs the Labor Government is clearly more focused on paying for a political campaign than on fixing Melbourne’s water shortage,” Mr Ryan said.
“These documents prove conclusively that the Labor Government has never given realistic consideration to supplementing Melbourne’s water needs through such means as harvesting stormwater for use on parks and gardens.
“Labor thinks it is easier to loot 144 billion litres of water during the past three years from the state’s ailing river systems than to develop sensible solutions,” Mr Ryan said.