The labelling of the prime minister as “Scotty from marketing” has been a masterful piece of satire. Where it has failed is in excusing the stretched relationship between the prime minister and the truth.
Implied in the title is permission to lie. Isn’t that what marketers do?
Well, actually they don’t. While quality and qualities vary, professional marketers have some declared commitment to honest and ethical behaviour. Some might even feel horrified at the damage the prime minister is doing to the comparative good name of marketing departments across the nation.
No one expects the prime minister — or any politician — to act with the integrity of ministers of religion (hmmm) or solicitors pledged to uphold the law (double-hmmm). So let’s just test Scott Morrison against the standards of his own profession as defined by the lofty-sounding Australian Marketing Institute Code of Professional Conduct.
Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.
The code has 12 clauses, beginning with the requirement to conduct professional activities with respect for the public interest.
Last week Crikey set out the sequential lying of the PM. One lie should diminish his standing — this pattern of untruths diminishes not just him but all of us by demonstrating that we’re not worthy of the truth.
Is this respect for the public interest? Hardly.
Clause two requires that members at all time act with integrity in dealing with clients, fellow members and the general public. Take a look back at Crikey’s dossierand pick any example you like. How would you see the prime minister’s adherence to clause two?
Clause three builds on the broad meanings of the code’s introductory clauses and is really worth dwelling on: “Members shall not intentionally disseminate false and misleading information, whether written, spoken or implied, nor conceal any relevant fact. They have a duty to maintain truth, accuracy and good taste in advertising, sales promotion and all other aspects of marketing.”
Well, where do we start here? Are the prime minister’s falsehoods on climate change or the vaccine intentional? If not, he’s out of his depth. If so, he has breached the rules of marketing. His obligation is to maintain truth and accuracy, not to just occasionally trip across it.
The code goes on to deal with the various issues of conflict, professional development, display of qualifications and how fees are charged that are standard in most professional codes.
Of course, there is no code of conduct for federal MPs, nor any organisation to assess or enforce it.
In fact, politics is right outside any of the normal laws that apply to advertising. There is no limit on false and misleading paid advertising to attract a vote — unlike, say, false and misleading advertising to encourage purchase of any other product — which makes the code governing the marketing profession even more apt for “Scotty from marketing”.
The code concludes with the aspiration that members shall “cooperate with fellow members in upholding and enforcing the code”. In which case, the prime minister should soon expect a request to explain his questionable integrity in dealing with the general public.
Is it OK for politicians to lie? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say section.