The carbon tax, carbon price, whatever you wish to call it is now just a matter of weeks from fruition, coming into effect on July 1 at a starting price of $23 per tonne. This policy backflip has been the cause of so much poll pain for the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and sees the ALP trailing the Tony Abbott led Coalition by double digits.
With every major policy, especially the ones that cause controversy and are much harder to sell (think WorkChoices as a recent example) generally comes a substantial advertising campaign trying to bring the public around to what the government of the day thinks are the benefits of such a package and how these benefits will outweigh the much argued about costs.
That is no different than with the so-called “Clean Energy Future” policy package which has been legislated by the Commonwealth parliament and set to take effect in roughly a month and a half.
The Gillard Government has announced a $36 million advertising budget to attempt to sell the package to a wary and largely switched off public that didn’t particularly enjoy the change of mind brought on by the minority government situation.
In just the next 6 weeks, the government will spend $14 million of that total budget allocation in a likely wasted attempt to ameliorate concerns over the package. This amounts to a total spend per day of appromimately $270,000 over that month-and-a-half long period.
The media blitz focuses on the compensation packaged related to the carbon pricing legislation which totals $4.2 billion and makes the total spend on advertising the Clean Energy Future package $70 million dollars.
This in itself is a very high amount for a Labor Government that took office, under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, promising to reign in unnecessary government spending on advertising and public relations, particularly in the wake of the Howard Government spending an enormous $121 million dollars promoting the controversial WorkChoices legislation which played a significant part in the downfall of the Howard Government after over a decade in office.
Compared to the spending on WorkChoices advertising, $70 million dollars does seem small, but only in comparison. Advertising to attempt to change public perceptions on legislation seems a dubious idea and could be better spent on other policies.
What is most horrific about the current advertising package is not the cost, but the way that it attempts to sell the household assistance that will be received by millions in the very near future.
The latest advertisement, which has just started airing makes absolutely no mention of the fact that the assistance package is part of the response to the inevitable price rises which will be caused by the instigation of the carbon price. It is just referred to as the “household assistance package” and this gives the impression that the government are trying to sell the package to the unaware as effectively money for nothing.
There is no reference anywhere in the entire 30 seconds of any of the related ads, be it the ad targetted at seniors, singles or families of those two words that have become so dangerous for the government, ‘carbon’ and ‘tax’, that when put together, even as the “carbon price” iteration, spells disaster for the on the nose government.
So when you see those ads and think of the extra money you will be receiving from the government, remind yourself that you are not receiving money for nothing.
NOTE: Not referring to the Dire Straits song when I use the phrase “money for nothing”. Just to clear that up 🙂
Today it became clear that Jeff Lawrence, the boss of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) would be leaving the post in the near future. Some say Mr Lawrence leaves under duress, being forced out after losing the confidence of senior union officials in recent times, for being an ineffective communicator particularly when it comes to media. The ACTU boss on the other hand says that he was certainly not forced out of the position, reportedly last Friday and instead could simply not complete another 3 years in the job as he approached 60 years of age.
Going by experience it is almost certain that the former is true, the head union official was likely pushed out by those in the union movement unhappy with the way he has performed in the role since assuming the position. It seems as though the coup has been even more seamless than those in the ALP that have highly involved the union movement in recent years.
The ACTU Secretary, by any objective or subjective analysis has been a very poor performer in the position since taking the reigns. His media presence has at times been so non-existent as to foment questions as to his whereabouts, well not really, but you get the picture. This media spotlight has consequently been grabbed by other media hungry union bosses, including such well-known men who now have a face like Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union and Dave Oliver of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
In a cruel twist one of the names touted to take over the position of ACTU Secretary is Dave Oliver, whose media profile has sky-rocketed in the past 12 months in particular, gaining regular access to the ear of Julia Gillard as the Prime Minister attempts to work through the manufacturing woes which have escalated since around the time of the GFC.
But it is not only the lack of media presence that Mr Lawrence brought to the role. The ACTU boss is very poor at delivery of message and was not even effective at displaying feigned anger, even at issues which usually provoke animated debate with the union movement, like labour market deregulation.
Since the “Your Rights at Work” Campaign too, very few people would be able to associate Jeff Lawrence with any particular high-profile public relations campaign on any workplace related issue, no matter how hard they tried.
Predictably, on announcing his departure as a union boss, Mr Lawrence took the opportunity to have an ineffective prod that came across almost as a pat at the business community who are calling for some flexibility in the workplace.
The union movement, still obviously cocky from their very effective campaign against the Howard Government WorkChoices legislation, which in large part led to its downfall, think that any tinkering with the Gillard Government’s “Fair Work” laws equates to a wholesale return to WorkChoices, so the ACTU Secretary obviously could not resist temptation.
A return to WorkChoices is never going to happen, the collective pants of the Coalition are scared off permanently save for a desire for some meagre flexibility changes which would not even qualify as the ugly cousin of that divisive thing called WorkChoices. But hey, what do the unions have to talk about which scares people en masse if they don’t have something which actually does like WorkChoices? Not very much.