Astroturfing in Australia

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In July 2006 two Australian PR bloggers, Trevor Cook from the Sydney-based PR firm Jackson Wells Morris and Paull Young from the sports PR agency BAM Media, have launched an anti-astroturfing campaign. Cook bluntly states that "Astroturfing is evil. Astroturfing is always unethical and usually illegal. It corrodes democracy which relies on transparency."

Cook and Young want PR companies to publicly state their opposition to using front groups. The catalyst for the campaign was an article by Melbourne journalist Katherine Wilson, who documented the role of the Public Relations Institute of Australia in hosting events by Canadian PR adviser, Ross Irvine. Irvine's tour of Australia was sponsored by the conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

PRIA's Positon on Astroturfing

The anti-astroturfing campaign has drawn a response from the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). The National President of PRIA, Annabelle Warren, wrote in a statement that the organisation "strongly opposes astro-turfing practices" and that members must "adhere to the highest standards of ethical practice." [1]

If that is the case why did PRIA's College of Fellows recently reject a complaint by Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne over the front group, Tasmanians for a Better Future? [2] Warren said she couldn't comment on the case as the PRIA Board was presented only with a recommendation but not the rationale for the College of Fellows assessment. Senator Milne was unavailable for comment. Keith Jackson, from the Sydney PR firm Jackson Wells Morris notes that there has been no response to the anti-astounding campaign by the PR industry "Big Guys" including Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, Weber Shandwick and Porter Novelli. "They say ethics. We see denial," he concludes. [3]

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  • Sandi Keane: Deception is our Product "" Independent Australia, February 7, 2012