The controversial taxpayer-funded advertising campaign for the Abbott government's Intergenerational Report escaped independent vetting, in an apparent breach of official policy.
The "challenge of change" marketing blitz, which stars science broadcaster Karl Kruszelnicki and warns of the consequences of an ageing population, began early last month.
It was launched five weeks after new rules for government advertising came into effect, which require
Sydney and Perth-based advertising agency 303Lowe was given a $1.75 million deal to run the campaign. Its contract began on February 12, almost two weeks after the independent vetting requirement was in place. Mr Fraser certified the marketing on March 6, more than three weeks later.
Despite the timing, the Treasury told Fairfax Media the advertising "was initiated" under the old rules, which were abandoned in January, and which did not require Mr Fraser to seek independent advice.
The apparent inconsistency emerged after the campaign's frontman, Dr Kruszelnicki, known widely as "Dr Karl", called the Intergenerational Report a flawed document and said he regretted his involvement.
Dr Karl, who had not read the full report before agreeing to take part in the advertising, criticised its lack of discussion of climate change, saying it was "incredibly short-sighted".
Earlier this month, he said he would donate his appearance fee to public schools.
Labor's economic spokesman, Chris Bowen, said the government must explain why Treasury's spending on the marketing was not vetted.
"[Treasurer] Joe Hockey needs to end this taxpayer-funded advertising spree right now and come clean on how much Australians have had to pay for this bungled ad campaign for his flawed report."
The Intergenerational Report is Treasury's 40-year forecast of Australia's demography and economy, which discusses the challenges these changes will pose to governments.
However, this year's report was criticised as more politicised than past versions, because it emphasised how public debt would worsen if Coalition policies were not adopted.
The advertising blitz's total cost remains unknown but the Treasury said it would publish its expenses when the campaign ended.
A public service-focused website, The Mandarin, estimated this month that eight contracts related to the campaign, which covered market research, publicity, branding and web design, totalled about $2.7 million.