The Abbott government has splashed more than $8 million of taxpayer money on a media blitz promoting its stalled higher education reforms.
The government has spent $5.4 million on media bookings for the campaign, which has infuriated key Senate crossbenchers.
This comes on top of $2.3 million spent on the design of the advertisements and $560,000 on focus groups and market research.
The government will counter attacks on the spending by pointing out the amount is dwarfed by the $21 million Labor spent in total promoting its Gonski school funding changes.( Hang on- I thought they were running on a unity ticket with The Gonski Reforms???)
The government launched the campaign – which has run across television, print, radio, bus shelters and online – days after the Senate voted down its higher education reform package.
The reforms would allow universities to set their own fees, cut university course funding and expand federal funding to private colleges, TAFEs and sub-bachelor degree programs.
It is understood the $5.4 million amount covers the two-week period before Christmas as well as a potential second phase of advertising this year.
The campaign has angered Senate crossbenchers whose votes will be crucial for the government to pass its reforms.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has called the campaign "party political advertising paid for by taxpayers" while Palmer United Party Senate leader Glenn Lazarus described it as an "underhanded ... propaganda campaign".
Senator Xenophon said governments should be banned from spending taxpayer money on advertising unless its policies have become law.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the campaign was a "total waste of money".
"No amount of advertising or slick marketing will convince Australians that Tony Abbott's plan for $100,000 university degrees is a good idea," Mr Shorten said.
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