How can you know where you stand if you’ve just shot yourself in the foot?

The Liberal Party’s new publicly-funded advertising campaign promoting the party’s revised industrial relations policies* has already done more damage to the party’s cause than any benefit they might possibly achieve. Labor has been given buckets of entirely favourable free publicity on both the substantive issue of IR and the misuse of public funds in political campaigning**. Even more striking, the label “Workchoices” has been abandoned in the ads, effectively conceding that Labor and the unions have won the policy debate. The alternative, something like “Workchoices: New and Improved!” might have been corny and unconvincing, but surely not as bad as this. Of course, without an ad campaign, there would have been no need for such a choice.

Now its time for the ads themselves. My guess is that they will be somewhere between ineffective and counterproductive. Those who have been following the issue closely can only have a negative reaction, and those who remember the previous campaign might wonder why, if all the relevant conditions were PROTECTED BY LAW last time, they now need to be protected again. But I imagine the majority of viewers will tune out in one way or another.

*As far as I know, these policies have not been enacted into law, or even placed before the Parliament, so their only real status is as Liberal policy

** If there is a change of government, watch to see if the promise to have the Auditor-General examine all such advertising is implemented in Labor’s first year. If it hasn’t come in by then it will never happen.

9 thoughts on “How can you know where you stand if you’ve just shot yourself in the foot?

  1. John, there are much wider issues of democratic principle at stake than the success or failure of these particular ads.

    An incumbent government has a huge advantage at the best of times. But this is compounded when governments also
    – crush dissent from community-based advocacy organisations (which are absolutely essential to a deliberative democracy), by threatening to remove their tax privileged status,
    – use their financial power to dictate to the States on traditional state responsibilities, with Peter Costello foreshadowing further moves in he same direction;
    – stifle the role of the Senate and its committees as watchdogs and scrutineers;
    – diminish the role of independent statutory bodies in industrial relations, human rights and administrative oversight;
    – stack key statutory boards and Benches with like-minded people;
    – make a farce of Parliamentary Question Time;
    – change the methods of appropriation to make the Government less accountable for its spending; and
    – change the Electoral Act which will make it harder for some citizens to vote and increase the secrecy veil on political donations.

    On top of all that, the Howard Government is engaging in advertising at taxpayers expense – advertising which is clearly propaganda and misleading (the last lot of newspaper ads clearly implied a causal relationship between WorkChoices and the strong labour market) and they are using the media (in this case the Murdoch press) as a propaganda vehicle. As a result, the playing field is no longer level.

    Such corruption of democracy is not a problem unique to the Howard Government (the Keating Government also abused and State Labor governments are at it to a considerable extent). But Howard has taken it to a fine art.

  2. that’s a pretty good survey of what’s wrong with parliamentary rule, and it won’t change just because some other party gets on top. well, it may get worse. many parliamentary governments are even less responsive to the public interest.

    so why does it never cross an ozzies brain that it is time to move on to democracy?

  3. Fred, I share your concerns with these developments which, as you say, did not begin with Howard but have become much worse under his government.

    As I say in the post, though, I think voters have woken up to at least some of these developments – the complete failure of the $55 million ad blitz on WorkChoices the first time around illustrates this.

    I hope we’ll see significant changes in the first year of a Rudd government.

  4. Lest you think Howard’s ‘use by’ date is up just remember what a disappointment Blair turned out to be in the UK. The other mob could look better on paper but echoes of the Whitlam years could emerge. If the ‘Sydney declaration’ on climate change at the next APEC meeting is as lame as most expect then I think that ‘use by’ date will have come up.

  5. Realistically I would guess that the media advertising code will be in the same bucket as changes to FOI and both if enacted suffer the same fate as Howard’s Ministerial Code of Conduct.

  6. jquiggin Says: May 20th, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I hope we’ll see significant changes in the first year of a Rudd government.

    I assume that Rudd will win this election. But I would not blithely assume it, as Pr Q seems to be doing here.

    Current Centrebet odds give the ALP (1.83) a slight edge over the LN/P (1.95). Encouraging, but not yet time to pop open the bottle of champers.

  7. Hermit at No 4 harks back to the Whitlam years. This is interesting as I have noticed that this is a trend. This despite the fact that Whitlem was leader for a few short years in the 70s whereas the Hawke/Keating government was in power for 14 years more recently.

    The Hawke/Keating period was marked by training for the unemployed which was dumped as part of the cost cutting procedures in the early years of the Howard government. The transfer of training costs to the individual has now resulted in the skills crisis we face.

    The reason that the ads will not work is that Howard and his government have lost credibility. The population sees the spin which Joe Hockey tried to pin to the Labor Party with a $100 million campaign. However it is a union led campaign and those paying for it have paid both for the government campaign as well as the union campaign. This gives them a strong reason to argue to family and friends about the unfairness of the the government campaign. This is grass roots stuff which the ad campaign can never counter.

    Chickens are coming home to roost and Joe Hockey looks increasingly out of his depth in trying to stop it. Even the slogan “Know where you stand” will give rise to a great deal of Aussie humour as changes are made to the spelling – change a few words and it gives a very different impression. The government therefore is increasingly a joke through ridicule and satire.

    Those employers who have used the award as a basis for their individual agreements with their employees are disadvantaged by the changes as many are their employees’ friends as well as their employer.

    The changes the government has brought in are likely to change that easy relationship to one that is more unfriendly which is difficult if you are working with someone all day every day. These employers will not thank the govt for that especially as the changes mooted are not yet legislated and yet are in operation. The ads will give them no comfort with threats for non compliance being stressed.

    The ads will backfire.

  8. As I have published on 27-5-2007 in my book in the INSPECTOR-RIKATI® series why WorkChoices 14-11-2006 judgment of the High Court of Australia is itself ill conceived we must then concentrate of the kind of people we appointed to be judges.
    Had the High court of Australia, as I did as a “CONSTITUTIONALIST� appropriately considered all relevant statements made by the Framers of the Constitution, and not quoted merely selected statement to suit the purported validity of the legislation, then the Court could but only have declared that the so called WorkChoices legislation is unconstitutional!
    See also my blog and my webiste.

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