Fred Argy has a carefully argued piece on government advertising on the ANU’s Democratic Audit of Australia website (PDF). He notes:
The current IR newspaper ads (responding to pre-emptive advertising by the ACTU), are said to cost $20m and are particularly controversial. Unlike the Medicare ads, which related to new legislated rights, the IR ads relate to a proposed unlegislated policy change â€“ one that is highly divisive. And they do not tell a full and balanced story.
If the Government wanted to conduct a partisan â€˜political debate with the ACTU and the ALP, it had other means – through news releases, talk shows, various other media forums and if necessary through Liberal Party ads. Even strong media supporters of the Government have declared the advertisements as â€œinappropriate use of taxpayersâ€™ moneyâ€.
News today that Labor are challenging the spending as unconstitutional, on the basis that it hasn’t been specifically authorised by federal parliament. The case seems a long-shot – I suspect it’s mostly designed to draw more attention to the issue.