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Opposition Deputy Leader criticises government spending on industrial relations advertising; Minister says advertisements are needed to better explain the system to workers.

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Friday 18 May 2007

Opposition Deputy Leader criticises government spending on industrial relations advertising; Minister says advertisements are needed to better explain the system to workers


MARK COLVIN: The Government still won't say how much it intends to spend, but this weekend, expect to be hit with the latest round of ads on its Workplace laws. 


The Coalition has already used $5-million of taxpayer's money to run its WorkChoices campaign, but with the pundits saying it's lost that PR war, it's now planning another series of commercials with a complete re-packaging of its industrial relations overhaul. 


The Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey says the ads will be simple and without spin, a claim that's been ridiculed by the Opposition. 


From Canberra Gillian Bradford reports. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: This is just a sample of the warring workplace ads you may have already seen on TV. 


First the unions. 


(Union TV advertisement): They cut my pay by over $1000 to do the same job. The boss said that if I didn't sign the contract, there was no future for me at the company. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: And the government. 


(Government TV advertisement): It's why we're introducing WorkChoices. We're moving towards one simpler, fairer national workplace system, to replace the six different systems that exist now. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: And stand by a whole new round of advertising starting this weekend. The Government has admitted its failed to win over the public with it long campaign on WorkChoices. So it's ditching the WorkChoices label and on Sunday a new series of ads will appear in papers and on radio and television. 


JOE HOCKEY: People need to know where they stand in the current Industrial Relations system. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: That slogan "know where you stand" will keep popping up in the ads and from the mouths of ministers. The Workplace Minister Joe Hockey says the ads are not spin, they just clarify what the laws are about. 


JOE HOCKEY: Now no one can complain about that surely, because for some time now we've had to deal confusion caused by a $100-million trade union and Labor Party scare campaign. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: But Labor's Deputy Leader Julia Gillard is more than a little skeptical about how politically neutral these ads might be. 


JULIA GILLARD: This is party political propaganda pure and simple. This is an old and tired Government that is now going to desperately claw money out of purses and wallets of hard working Australians to fund an advertising campaign to save its political skin. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: And she says Mr Howard has got form. 


JULIA GILLARD: Mr Howard has done this before. He ripped $55-million off Australian taxpayers for a deceitful round of ads about his so-called WorkChoices laws.  


Those advertisements told people that conditions like penalty rates and shift loadings would be protected by law. But the reality is, people had those conditions ripped off them under Mr Howard's laws. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Of course Labor is far from squeaky-clean when it comes to Government advertising. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating was himself a big spender, though after more than 10 years in Opposition, Labor has reinvented itself as a party of fiscal conservatives, who'd never waste money on things such as advertising. 


Of course whether it lives up to that saintly image will only be tested if it wins government. John Howard has no intention of letting that happen. 


JOHN HOWARD: I think the problem in this area is there's so much propaganda flying around in the paid advertisements from the ACTU and the Labor Party, that people are confused about where they stand and we're going to commence a campaign over the weekend advising people where they can go to, to find out exactly where they stand and to tell people there are protections under the Workplace Relations Act. 


GILLIAN BRADFORD: Twice a year, at budget estimates, the Opposition gets its chance to look at the Government's advertising spend. 


And that just happens to be next week. There you can expect to see the old Labor double act of senators Robert Ray and John Faulkner putting the weights on bureaucrats to cough up figures, that the Minister Joe Hockey, wont reveal. 


JOURNALIST: So how much is this all going to cost taxpayers? 


JOE HOCKEY: Well we will continue to campaign and we will monitor its success, so it's important that people know where they stand and we will obviously and properly inform them and we will monitor it as it goes along. 


MARK COLVIN: Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey.