Health Department returns Liberal campaign ads to Election Commission

Earlier this month, the Labor Party refused to remove the NDIS logo from its documents – arguing it was not a registered trademark and insisting the party was not trying to mislead voters — after the federal agency that runs the program asked him to stop doing so.

The opposition also uses the Medicare logo in its campaign materials.

Hunt, who is retiring after the election, said in his letter that the Coalition relied on publicly available factual information “to help inform public debate”.

“It is very disappointing that you are willing to disparage the good work of the Department of Health,” he wrote.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said his department’s website was appropriate.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Butler also questioned whether the timing of the website’s publication violated transition conventions, noting that it was updated on April 11, the first day of the transition period.

“It could give the impression that the website was created or updated for the purpose of promoting the record of the Morrison government during an election period,” he wrote.

Former Health Department secretary Dr Stephen Duckett said bureaucrats had to be ‘scrupulously careful’ to ensure their communications during transition times could not be construed as endorsing one side of politics , to conform to constitutional conventions.

“It relies on the integrity of bureaucrats and politicians during the campaign,” he said.

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Duckett said the website detailing “all the wonderful things we’ve done” could be problematic if published during the transition period, even if it was factual.

Transition convention guidelines issued by the Prime Minister and Cabinet Department state that agency websites may retain material uploaded before the transition period, but not “recent ministerial statements that include negative references to the opposition”.

“Agencies should check the wording of all icons and links on their websites to ensure that they cannot be interpreted as promoting government policy,” the guidelines state.

The department said the Health Funding Facts web page, created before the 2019 election, “is updated periodically” with details on federal health spending.

The last major update, just before the interim mode on April 10, reflected the 2022-23 federal budget and the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.

On April 11, a minor edit was made to correct an error where the landing page referred to the 2021-22 budget.

“The Department takes the interim covenants seriously and enforces them as intended,” the spokesperson said.

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