A SENIOR Victorian bureaucrat has blown the whistle on the scale of the State Government's taxpayer-funded media machine, describing its communications unit as a "small army".
The comments were made in an email exchange about former premier Steve Bracks' controversial "red helicopter" advertising campaign selling the Government's water plans.
Responding to a question about public relations from an advertising company pitching for the campaign, the former head of communications at the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Andrew Hockley, stated: "We do not have an existing PR partner for this project … we have a small army of media liaison and event managers in-house."
The correspondence, obtained by the Opposition under freedom of information, also reveals the costs and planning behind the $1.7 million campaign.
The centrepoint of the campaign was a two-minute television commercial featuring Mr Bracks in a helicopter - filmed from a second helicopter - selling the water plan.
Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis seized on the comments.
"The fact that this Government is boasting of an 'army' of PR spin doctors to conceal their failures is an insult to every Victorian," he said. "Instead of employing more doctors, nurses and police, the Premier has embedded more than a thousand PR operatives."
The State Government would not say how many public relations staff worked for government departments. But according to parliamentary questions, in 2006-07 the Department of Sustainability and Environment had 25 media staff, the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development 27, the Department of Treasury and Finance 10. There are currently 25 media advisers in Premier John Brumby's media unit.
Government spokeswoman Fiona Macrae said communications units helped to develop education and behavioural campaigns to promote policies such as saving lives and saving water.
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