Taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars a week to a secretive right-wing group to write emails, social media posts and run campaigns for individual conservative federal politicians, documents reveal.
Invoices obtained from the Department of Finance for the first time give details about the services claimed by members of Parliament from Whitestone Strategic, a “conservative campaign consultancy” that was closely involved with the Voice to Parliament No campaign and right-wing lobby group Advance.
Through a freedom of information request, Crikey has obtained invoices given by South Australian conservative Christian Coalition Senator Alex Antic to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority between April and June 2022.
Documents show that Antic’s office claimed $26,972.22 in expenses from Whitestone Strategic for just three months of services between December 2021 and February 2022.
These invoices include items such as “social media content and placement” for $1,650 in January, $11,069.30 for “additional social media spend” in December and January, and “email communications to supporters” for $1,485 in February”.
The invoices also provide specific details about additional campaigns that Antic sought Whitestone Strategic’s services for. One with the reference “Vaccine Mandate” charged $4,785 for “copywriting and design” for a campaign. Around the time of this invoice, Antic launched a “Help stop vaccine discrimination” page on his website that invited readers to sign a “Freedom Pledge” opposing vaccine mandates. (Antic refused to disclose whether he was vaccinated but did undertake quarantine in a medi-hotel after travelling back to Adelaide from Canberra around this time.)
Antic declined to answer questions about his use of Whitestone Strategic, instead saying that he doesn’t bother with left-wing media: “Good luck with what is no doubt shaping up to be an excellent hack piece. I’m sure it will be popular in metro Sydney.”
Whitestone Strategic is a little-known political consultancy group that has garnered more attention for its role with Advance and the No campaign. Co-founded by a former Australian Christian Lobby director of communications David Hutt, the campaign has worked with the ACT Liberals during the 2022 federal election as well as Liberal Senator Claire Chandler.
Whitestone Strategic did not respond to a request for comment.
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