Coalition politicians opposing the Indigenous voice to parliament are spending four times as much as other MPs on Facebook ads and, in some cases, using taxpayer dollars to do so.
Among the top 10 Facebook accounts belonging to politicians that have shared ads supporting either side of the referendum, the majority were from the Coalition.
Between 1 August 2022 to 21 August 2023, the top five highest-spending politicians were Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Coalition MPs Keith Pitt, Rick Wilson, Jason Wood and Senator Michaelia Cash. All advocating for a No vote.
Labor MP Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah and independent MP Zali Steggall were the only two from the top 10 who shared messages in support of the voice or promoted pro-voice community forums, according to Guardian research based on Meta’s ad library.
According to The Guardian, Coalition MPs are estimated to have spent as much as $175,200 on Facebook advertising while Labor MPs have spent just $39,200.
The amount spent on No and Yes campaigns is almost identical with adverts for the No campaign amounting to $175,300 while Yes ads totaled $37,200.
Politicians are given an annual office expenses budget that can be used for social media advertising. Coalition MP Rick Wilson said that social media was an effective medium to reach his constituents.
“As the member for a 1.1 million square kilometre electorate … I have a responsibility to inform all those communities,” he said. “Social media is a very effective way to inform those many and diverse regional and remote communities.”
However, in totality, the Yes23 campaign vastly overspends the official No campaign. According to previous research, Yes23 outspent No by some 634 per cent and exercised its big corporate budget to do so.
The Yes23 campaign was said to have spent almost $300,000 on social media adverts, between the middle of June and July. The rival No campaign said that Yes23 might have spent as much as $10 million on advertising across all media.
With an official date set for the referendum, one can only expect that the amount spent on digital ads will continue to grow.
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