Audit finds federal infrastructure ads omitted state and territory involvement

By Jackson Graham

February 18, 2022

Michael McCormack
A plan for Michael McCormack to provide a prerecorded message for the campaign raised red flags for the finance department. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

An audit has found a federal department’s advertising of infrastructure projects failed to be fair and objective in some instances. 

A new Australian National Audit Office report found the infrastructure department’s “Building Our Future” campaign was free of political content but some material had no or minor references to states or territories also being partners in the projects. 

The campaign, which ran from January 2019 to June 2021, cost $34.6 million; the audit found the department’s management “largely effective” but had some shortcomings. 

In a radio ad for the Brisbane Metro, which made no reference to the state government, the federal contribution made up 24% of the project. 

Other radio and press ads for projects, such as the ACT’s Mitchell Light Rail stop and Victoria’s M80 Ring Road, also made no mention of the partner governments, which were contributing half of the funding. 

“Some campaign statements did not accurately represent the Australian government’s involvement in infrastructure projects,” the auditors found. “Campaign materials were not always presented in an objective and fair manner.” 

The department told the audit office its acknowledgement of state and territory partners was removed in refining the campaign to “allow enough space” and “ensure the best possible message cut through”. 

“The website contained project details and made it clear when projects were also funded by partners,” the department said. 

Despite the material being free of political content, the auditors highlighted a plan for former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack to provide a prerecorded message for a movie roadshow, which raised red flags for the finance department. The material was used without the political message. 

The infrastructure department has agreed to recommendations from the auditors, including that it accurately represent the government’s role in projects and that it establish performance targets and report against them as part of evaluating campaigns. 


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