1996 Election Report: Public Information Campaign

Updated: 5 December 2007

Public Information Campaign

For the 1996 election the AEC conducted an extensive public education campaign aimed at reminding voters of their electoral rights and responsibilities. The major messages conveyed in this campaign were:

  • how, when, and where to enrol and vote
  • how and when to vote using services such as pre-poll and postal voting
  • how to correctly complete the two ballot papers.

image of a press advertisementIn communicating this information to the public and in particular to key target audiences such as the young and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, the AEC used a range of communication strategies.


National and State based advertising was conducted throughout the election period. The first AEC advertisement was broadcast on television at 2.10pm on Sunday 27 January 1996, the afternoon following the announcement of the election. The final advertisement was heard on radio at 5pm, an hour before the close of polls.

The national advertising campaign involved five television commercials, 15 separate press advertisements and 13 radio commercials. This was supplemented by State based press advertisements which provided local information on candidates and polling places. As a result of the overlap with the Tasmanian State election special advertising was also prepared for this State.

The total cost of the AEC's advertising program was approximately $7m.

National advertising was translated into various community languages:

  • TV: 12 languages
  • Press: 18 languages for appearances in 44 ethnic community newspapers
  • Radio: 20 languages.

advertisement for how to vote in Chinese

Radio advertising appeared on community service stations incorporating print handicapped and Aboriginal community as well as ethnic language programs. Expenditure on ethnic media outlets accounted for approximately 8% of press costs and 26% of radio costs.

Of the total media budget, 39% was spent on television, 13% on radio and 48% on press advertising.

Elector leaflet

front cover of the elector leaflet

The AEC distributed a multi-page election information leaflet, Your guide to the federal election, to households throughout Australia:

  • the leaflet answered some commonly asked questions about the electoral process, explained how to complete the ballot papers for the Senate and House of Representatives, and described how the votes are counted
  • a different version was produced for each State and Territory
  • leaflets for Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory included maps showing the new electoral boundaries following the 1994 redistributions
  • the leaflet contained information panels in 11 languages and included a contact telephone number for the Translating and Interpreting Service
  • the leaflet was shrink wrapped in plastic to separate it from party political and other advertising material
  • delivery began two weeks before polling day
  • in excess of 7 million leaflets were distributed
  • the total cost was $1.3m.

With the assistance of the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia the leaflet was also recorded on audio cassette and distributed to blind and other print handicapped electors.

A separate one-page leaflet was also produced for people living in the New South Wales divisions of Grayndler, Fowler, Prospect and Watson.

At the 1993 election these divisions recorded high informal voting rates.

For this election the leaflet showed a sample of a House of Representatives ballot paper and a generic Senate paper, together with voting instructions in English and 10 community languages. This was to assist Australians of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to cast a formal vote.

Public Relations and other activities

In parallel with the advertising campaign, the AEC conducted large scale public relations activities during the election period.

Public relations activities focussed on:

  • media releases and publications;
  • background articles for the media; and
  • media opportunities to promote the AEC's key electoral messages.

This included:

  • a story on A Current Affair featuring the conduct of remote polling in the Northern Territory
  • coverage of the enrolment of the Adelaide Rams Super League team
  • coverage of the Australian cricket team voting in India.

Other activities included:

  • using the AEC's homepage to provide electoral information to the community (85 670 "hits" were recorded during March and on polling day alone there were 24 263 "hits")
  • the establishment of a national telephone hotline, 13 23 26. A total of 317 799 enquiries were handled throughout the election period. On close of rolls day alone 29 220 calls were taken
  • the distribution of popular AEC electoral reference material including Divisional Profiles, Electoral Atlas, AUSMAP of Electoral Boundaries, Candidates and Scrutineers Handbooks and several editions of the AEC's regular bulletin, Electoral Newsfile
  • placement of information articles and editorial in specialist magazine publications such as Army and RAAF News, Link Magazine (a magazine which examines issues from disability perspectives), Age Pension News and Senior Citizens Weekly
  • broadcasting of a four minute electoral information program as part of the SBS For Your Information series.
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