NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has slammed the state government for spending over a million dollars to fund last year’s advertising campaign in support of the controversial greyhound racing ban after it was found to be inaccurate, poor value for money and conflicting with the Government’s own guidelines.
Figures in an independent report released on Thursday revealed the ‘Dogs deserve better’ campaign cost $1.3 million, while the ‘Stronger Councils, Stronger Communities’ campaign, which was released to promote council mergers, cost a whopping $4.5 million.
“The Government has been caught out lying to the public through ads that were a complete waste of money.” Foley said.
“The proof is in the pudding – the Liberal Government backed down on both of these bungled policies.”
The report by the NSW Auditor-General examined both campaigns and found they were rushed out last year in an attempt to sway the people of NSW in favour of the ill-fated policies.
Auditor-General Margaret Crawford concluded in her report that the government campaigns had ‘potentially compromised value for money’ as a result of ‘the perceived urgency to advertise’.
This is despite the government normally reserving urgent campaigns for a ‘civil emergency or sudden health epidemic’.
Additionally, two statements about the greyhound industry made in the advertisements were found to be inaccurate.
In the advertisements, the Government claimed that the average life span of a racing dog is 1.5 years.
During the Auditor-General’s investigation it was found that the responsible department had calculated the lifespan to be 0.74 years by referring to various sections of the Special Commission of Inquiry report.
The department chose to use 1.5 years for the advertising campaign, however Crawford’s report found that the Government had calculated wrong and that the lifespan was actually 3.7 years.
The report also determined the Government had incorrectly claimed that greyhound racing is only legal in eight countries worldwide based on a statement in the Special Commission on Inquiry report which said only eight countries host commercial greyhound racing.
The government department claimed their definition of ‘legal’ meant ‘operating within a legal framework’.
However, once again this was determined to be inaccurate by the Auditor-General’s report – with several other countries such as Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden holding legal greyhound races – each of which are members of the Continental Greyhound Racing Confederation, which organises meetings and sets rules for participants.
Foley was adamant it should not be acceptable for a taxpayer funded public awareness campaign to be so inaccurate.
“These were dud policies from the beginning and taxpayer money shouldn’t have been wasted trying to sell them.”
Michael Daley, the Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Gaming and Racing agreed with Foley’s sentiment.
“This is just typical behaviour of the Liberal Government,” Daley said.
“They think the rules never apply to them and the fact the taxpayer funds were used and wasted in an attempt to cheat the system means nothing to them.”
The report also concluded the greyhound ban radio ads ‘did not clearly identify they were authorised by the NSW government during the first few days on air’ and were not clearly identifiable to the public.
The NSW Government was also found to have breached a requirement in the Government Advertising Guidelines for ‘objective presentation in a fair and accessible manner’ in that the ‘Dogs deserve better’ campaign used confronting imagery such as gun targets, blood smears and gravestones.