Christopher Pyne’s Taxpayer-Funded Ad Campaign To Sell University Reform Has Already Blown Up In His Face

Who could have possibly seen this coming?

Yesterday the government launched a $150,000 advertising blitz to spruik its garbage-bag university reforms, because if at first you don’t succeed, do the exact same thing only worse and everything will turn out alright, maybe. The campaign, which is being rolled out on TV and bus stops, wraps the proposed deregulation of uni fees and reduction of government HECS contributions in a sexy, nauseatingly cheery video complete with bright infographics and funky-fresh fonts, because that’s what Da Yoof enjoy if you happen to be a middle-aged Canberra bureaucrat barely existing in a windowless room.

That video has a hefty 102 views on YouTube so far, or just under $1,500 a view, so don’t ever say the government doesn’t value your input. The accompanying webpage already has its own parody site that does a pretty stellar job poking holes in the campaign’s dodgy claims and the inherent nastiness of the reforms proper; that site is far more worth your time than the real thing.


The merits or otherwise of the policy itself aside, the campaign has got people annoyed for more immediate reasons as well. Normally government advertising campaigns are launched to help sell ideas that are either already in place or will be soon, but the Senate emphatically rejected the government’s higher ed reforms last week and they’re about as popular with voters as Kyle Sandilands on a hot day, raising the question of exactly why we’re spending six figures’ worth of taxpayer dough on a policy that hasn’t got a snowball’s chance of becoming law.

Unfortunately for the government, the campaign has already alienated the very people it needs to persuade the most: the Senate crossbenchers. Nick Xenophon, who voted against the higher ed reforms the first time, said the campaign was “effectively party political advertising paid for by taxpayers,” and Jacqui Lambie summed it up as follows: “it doesn’t matter what ­colour lipstick you put on a pig, it is still a pig”. In a press release on Facebook yesterday, Palmer United Senator and Great Australian Hero Glenn Lazarus called the ad rollout “arrogant, out of touch and desperate”, lining it up and shoulder-charging it like he used to do as one of the best bloody prop forwards the Melbourne Storm ever had.

Even Senator John Madigan is annoyed about it; contrary to claims made by Christopher Pyne to justify the spend, Madigan never called for an advertising blitz and doesn’t support one anyway. Given that Madigan actually voted for the reforms last time, the fact that Pyne has somehow managed to piss him off over the whole thing doesn’t bode very well for the campaign’s long-term prospects. While it’s nice to watch the government flounder in its own inadequacy like a Magikarp on dry land, it’d probably be preferable if it didn’t come with a $150,000 pricetag, especially when Kochie can give you an embarrassing moment for free.