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Taxpayers to foot new IR campaign bill

Broadcast: 18/05/2007

Reporter: Dana Robertson

The Government begins its new, taxpayer funded, industrial relations advertising blitz this weekend
but Labor says the ads are a sign of arrogance and desperation, and should be paid for by the
Liberal Party.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: "Know where you stand"

That's the slogan you can expect to hear spouted from your TV this weekend, and from the mouths of
coalition MPs for the foreseeable future.

It's the catchphrase for the Government's new taxpayer funded industrial relations advertising

The new ads are designed to re-cast the unpopular WorkChoices brand by talking up the changes John
Howard announced a fortnight ago.

The Opposition says the ads are a sign of arrogance and desperation, and should be paid for by the
Liberal Party.

And as Dana Robertson reports, the Government says there could be more to come.

DANA ROBERTSON: The Government's already spent $55 million selling its WorkChoices laws.

(Excerpt of Government Advertisement)

VOICEOVER: WorkChoices moves us towards one simpler, fairer national workplace system.

(End of excerpt)

DANA ROBERTSON: But the Prime Minister acknowledges the message hasn't cut through.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: I think the problem in this area is there's just so much
propaganda flying around in the paid advertisements from the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade
Unions) and the Labor Party that people are confused about where they stand.

DANA ROBERTSON: Now the Government's launching a new assault on voters. From Sunday there'll be
more TV, radio and newspaper ads to promote the new fairness test for workers who earn less than
$75 000 a year.

The Opposition says it's nothing but party political propaganda.

JULIA GILLARD, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: This is arrogance off the Richter scale. This is
desperation. This is an affront to hardworking Australians and people should remember that when
they see these deceitful ads start this weekend.

JOHN HOWARD: We'll be telling people in very plain, simple language, lacking spin, as to exactly
where they stand.

DANA ROBERTSON: But the Opposition says it's impossible to explain the changes when the legislation
hasn't even been written.

JULIA GILLARD: How is it that you can have an advertising campaign when you don't even have a piece
of legislation in the Parliament? Shouldn't a responsible government write the laws first and
that's not what this government's done.

DANA ROBERTSON: And as for just how much the ads will cost, the Government's keeping that a secret,
although it says their impact will be closely monitored.

JULIA GILLARD: This is an advertising campaign without a budget. It's just going to roll week after
week. Tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money spent to protect his political hide.

DANA ROBERTSON: The ACTU has already spent millions on its own advertising. But it says workers
won't be fooled.

SHARAN BURROW, ACTU PRESIDENT: You can't pay your bills when people are increasingly struggling to
keep their heads above water, then no amount of advertising will convince people that this is a
fair game.

DANA ROBERTSON: The Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, has hinted that this weekend's
advertising blitz might not be the last. Only yesterday he admitted that the Union's campaign had
worked, and the WorkChoices brand name was now so unpopular that it was being dumped.

But John Howard denies the new ad blitz is designed to make WorkChoices a distant memory.

JOHN HOWARD: It's not designed to alter the way it's playing. I mean, we're probably still, from
time to time, going to use that as a description, as a policy.

DANA ROBERTSON: And he's keen to stress that the framework underpinning WorkChoices hasn't changed.

SHARAN BURROW: This is just Fawlty Towers in action. If it wasn't so serious, as I said yesterday,
the Government will be starring in its own comedy.

DANA ROBERTSON: Except in an election year, John Howard's not laughing.

Dana Robertson, Lateline .