Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has made a formal complaint to the Commonwealth Auditor-General over the Federal Government’s massive advertising blitz on asylum seekers.
The ads began at the weekend, running in major metropolitan newspapers, on TV and radio, after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd annouced a deal with Papua New Guinea for asylum seekers who arrive by boat to be processed and resettled in that country or a third destination.
Mr Rudd said no one who arrives by boat seeking refuge in Australia will be settled here from last Friday.
But Senator Xenophon decried the ads, saying both sides of politics had used taxpayers' money over the years to fund party political advertising.
''This campaign is one of the most blatant examples of this,” Senator Xenophon said.
He said the Auditor-General should investigate the issue as a ''matter of urgency''.
''The ads are directed towards people smugglers and unauthorised boat arrivals, yet they're appearing in Australian newspapers and on Australian television and radio,'' Senator Xenophon said.
''I didn't realise The Adelaide Advertiser had such a huge home delivery run in the outer suburbs of Jakarta.
''It’s one thing to advertise a new policy where people smugglers are, and another to use this as political propaganda at taxpayers' expense in Australia.
''These ads are not aimed at people smugglers, they’re aimed at Australian voters."
Greens leader Christine Milne said the rules around government advertising campaigns were clear.
''I'd like the government to release immediately the advice it has got, the advice it has given to this committee and make it public now as to why, suddenly, this is a national emergency,'' she told reporters in Hobart.
''Labor’s electoral fortunes in the polls are not a national emergency.''
The ads were not scrutinised by an independent committee that usually approves government advertising because they were considered too urgent.
Under a process introduced by Labor in March 2010, the independent communications committee, of three former public servants, is supposed to review all proposed government advertising campaigns worth more than $250,000 to see if they comply with guidelines.
Advertising campaigns must be objective and not directed at promoting party political interests, be justified and cost-effective.
A spokeswoman for Special Minister of State Mark Dreyfus confirmed he had agreed to exempt the campaign from the guidelines ''on the basis of extreme urgency''.
''The changes to ... policy must be immediately communicated to our communities so asylum seekers considering coming to Australia are made aware of the changes,'' she said.