Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered his department to stop paying social media influencers.
The Daily Telegraph revealed on Friday the Health Department had spent more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds on the #girlsmakeyourmove social media campaign over the past 18 months.
“At my request, the department is pausing and reviewing any use of influencers,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
“There would need to be a demonstrated benefit and demonstrated suitability of any individual going forward, for this to recommence.
“This would need to include a thorough assessment and vetting process linked to improving the health of Australians.”
Labor senator Murray Watt said he was pleased to see Mr Hunt’s decision.
“I think that all taxpayers would think there are better ways to see taxpayer funds used than paying social media influencers hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost their Instagram likes,” he said.
“I have an issue with the department having spent taxpayers’ money in this way in the first place. But if they’re going to do it, they need to be a lot more careful about the kind of people that they promote.
“We want to have our Australian government backing mainstream attitudes that the community can support, not those kind of attitudes that are condemning other people.”
The payment to Instagrammers came under fire after data-analysis firm Lumio found that although many accounts had hundreds of thousands of followers, they were not all “valuable” from an advertising perspective.
The newspaper reported several others contracted for the women’s exercise campaign also promoted alcohol on their accounts, and the Health Department paid someone to post on Instagram despite them being forced to apologise for posting racist content.
Mr Hunt said on Friday the department was reviewing its social media strategy and there needed to be a thorough vetting process.
The Girls Make Your Move social media campaign was part of a broader Health Department initiative developed to, “address the lower level of physical activity and barriers faced by young Australian women”.
The social media spend included paying a number of Instagrammers for posts encouraging their followers to get involved in activities like kickboxing, yoga, surfing, roller derby and rock climbing.
Girls Make Your Move also teamed up with organisations including the Women’s Rugby League World Cup and a number of fitness companies offering free trial gym memberships to young women.
The campaign’s website said it was inspired by Sport England’s This Girl Can initiative, which successfully encouraged millions of women to be more active.
The marketing agency responsible for the campaign no longer has the government advertising contract.