"There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian," according to our Prime Minister, but there also may have never been a worse time to be in government advertising.
A new $28 million campaign for the 'Ideas Boom' featuring Malcolm Turnbull's favourite catchphrase has been referred to the auditor-general, after Labor claimed the advertising breached guidelines banning the use of political slogans.
Turnbull has told us repeatedly that "there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian" so many times, it has almost become a self-referential ironic joke for the PM. He uses the slogan to begin press conferences, address colleagues or journalists, or simply drop into conversation apropos of nothing. Even other pollies are getting in on the joke.
The problem for Turnbull comes from the use of the slogan in advertising material for his much-spruiked 'Ideas Boom,' a campaign to promote his National Innovation and Science Agenda. In the advertising, which was confirmed to have cost $28 million of taxpayers money, the word "exciting" is liberally sprinkled through documents and videos, as well as one particular video including the voiceover phrase "welcome to the most exciting time in Australia's history."
Labor's "waste watch" spokesman Pat Conroy took offence to this, referring the campaign to the auditor-general. Conroy claimed the use of Turnbull's slogan breached the Department of Finance’s Advertising Guidelines, which state advertising should "not include party political slogans or images".
"I have written to the Auditor General, Mr Grant Hehir, seeking an audit of the Government advertising campaign Welcome to the Ideas Boom," Conroy said in a statement.
"This language was used repeatedly by the Prime Minister, including in comments made on his assumption of the leadership of the Federal Liberal party last year... I have asked the Auditor General to perform an audit of the use of this slogan in the ‘ideas boom’ campaign to ensure that it is in line with the Guidelines, and to make sure that taxpayer funds are being used in the appropriate way."
Besides referral to the auditor-general, many have poked fun at Turnbull's "never been a more exciting time" slogan. Clive Palmer, for instance, made it the centre of a question he posed to the PM last month, asking whether Turnbull had financial or banking interests in the Cayman Islands.
A search of the parliamentary hansard returns at least 28 results on "never been a more exciting time," including:
- North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman: "There has never been a more exciting time to be the member for North Sydney!"
- Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby: "In spite of the member for Wentworth's affected bonhomie, it has never been a more exciting time to be in opposition"
- Ryan MP Jane Prentice: " I can say with great confidence and enthusiasm that there has never been a more exciting time to be the member for Ryan."
- The Chair of the Senate Standing Committees on Economics ("there has never been a more exciting time to be in the CSIRO") and Senator Arthur Sinodinos ("There has never been a more exciting time to leave the committee, I think)
- Senator Jennifer McAllister: "'There has never been a more exciting time to be a small target government"
- Canning MP Andrew Hastie: "there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. Conversely, there has never been a duller time to be a member of the Australian Labor Party"
- Perth MP Alannah McTiernan: "there has certainly never been a less exciting time to be an Australian scientist."
Even Turnbull's predecessor is getting in on the action: