For weeks now we’ve been hearing complaints about the level of government advertising, much of it on the changes to WorkChoices. It isn’t having any obvious effect on the two-party preferred. But today’s Newspoll issues survey (pdf) suggests that it is perhaps having some impact.
On the question of which party would better handle industrial relations, the Coalition on 34% is now 7 percentage points above its low point of February this year. As The Australian pointed out, that’s taken them back to where they were before WorkChoices.
So why isn’t it showing in the two-party preferred? Partly, perhaps, because industrial relations is ranked the least important of the nine issues Newspoll has asked about in recent surveys. But the main answer, I think, is that the extra 7% are mostly Liberal voters now less worried about WorkChoices than they were before. Labor has kept the 7-8% WorkChoices advantage it acquired from WorkChoices, with the recent Liberal gains coming from the ‘uncommitted’, ‘none’ and other party columns.
With the Coalition primary vote looking so sorry, the ad campaign may have had a useful political impact for the government (the same can’t be said for the environment ads; the government’s numbers have been flat all year). But it is not a vote changing impact, just firming up Liberal-leaning voters who might be tempted to stray.
52 thoughts on “Have the WorkChoices ads made a difference?”
I think you need to change weeks to months (perhaps years). Also worthwhile knowing would be how the propaganda campaign causes people to vote against the Liberal party because they are sick of government funded propaganda. It might actually being doing more harm than good, especially given that the distribution of people likely to vote against them because of it is likely to be different.
Yes, months and years, though I had the ‘million dollars a day’ Labor/left blogger talking point particularly in mind, which I think has been weeks rather than months.
I wish they were allowed to put them back on. I miss Babs Bennett and the constant reminder of the party-politicisation of the public service she so embodies. Sure the Labor party started the rot, but did the Liberals have to be such enthusiastic pursuers of that ruinous policy?
What continues to strike me about the Newspoll data on how the electorate ranks the issues is that industrial relations has bumped around the bottom of the table for two years. Indeed, national security and the economy – the Coalition’s supposed perpetual trumps – have ranked in the middle of the table.
The media, unions, business and political commentators have said for two years or more that the big issues were IR, national security and the economy. Yet the Newspoll data suggests the attention of the citizenry has been elsewhere: health and education in particular.
You could conclude that the money spent by the government on self-promotion, or self-protection, was misdirected.
Funnily enough, the tax cuts just announced don’t seem well spent either. If people are saying health and education are the main concerns, that suggests they are interested in policy in those areas which presumably suggests wise spending proposals.
Rob – The difficulty both parties face is that vast sums have been spent on health and education (I have some of the federal spending growth rates here), but the effects are barely showing in the polls that ask about public perceptions of health and education services, though there has been a slight improvement.
This is partly because, compared to tax, health and education services are very hard to measure. In the health system, the attention given to chronic trouble spots like emergency rooms and elective surgery waiting lists means that other improvements in diagnosis and treatment tend to be discounted. And both the public health and education systems have workforce and management problems that cannot just be solved by pumping in more money.
These problems are most serious for the Liberals, as Labor ‘owns’ health and education. They have to focus on their strengths, such as tax.
Remember too that Newspoll surveys are of the whole electorate, but the views of most voters aren’t relevant as they have already decided their vote and nothing in the campaign will change it.
It is the swinging voters and weak supporters of the parties whose views count most.
Or, more precisely, it is the views of a relatively small number of the swing voters whose views count. Those that happen to be in marginal electorates!!! Swinging voters views in, say, the electorates of Canberra or Fraser are unlikely to matter!!!
I hate the idea of the government spending money on advertising but they forced to, due to the totally dishonest ad campaign put forward by the union movement.
And, yes I think they have been resonably effective in removing only some of the lies by the Unions and their lying lackeys.
JC, unions are voluntary associations who fund their ads from contributions by members who choose to join. The government is funding its ads through compulsory taxation. that is an important difference.
Not true. Try getting a job as a non union worker at a union building site. You would be lucky to get out with your life.
Unions members also have no say what happens to the union dues once it gets taken out of their paypack.
Unions did a great disservice to the rest of the non-union public by lying about work choices. The fact is that unions raise the wages of their members at the expense of everyone else when there are rules etc. granting them special privs.
The government was forced to spend the money in order to correct an obvious lie told by the unions.
What rubbish. They were “forced” to spend the money to save their slimy hides from an ill-conceived behemoth of useless legislation. Even if 50% of what the govt. are claiming is true about Workchoices (i.e. that unfair dismissal changes create more work), it’s obvious that by changing about 3 paragraphs of legislation around unfair dismissals would have achieved 90% of the stated aims of the legislation. The rest of it is typical conservative, knee-jerk anti-union rubbish designed to minimise our rights to collectively bargain in good faith.
Libertarians: first to scream theft at taxation and first to run home to mummy govt. when things don’t go their way.
David, why should collective bargaining be a right? When businesses do the equivalent (ie agree to fix prices), their managers are (rightly) fined and vilified.
Rajat, is this the point where you try to equate collective bargaining of employees with the illegal anti-market behaviour of a cartel? There’s a very good reason why cartels have been made illegal: as consumers, we can’t sack a cartel (especially for something essential, like, cardboard boxes). As an employer, you are free to sack your employees or take your capital elsewhere regardless of what a union does. Closed shops are long gone (except for lawyers and doctors).
The governemnt couldn’t exactly sue the union for lying over their dishonesty about workchoices so they were forced to explain the laws through advertising. Blame the union trogs for the dishonesty. The government wouldn’t have been forced to spend a cent if the unions had told the truth.
“why should collective bargaining be a right? When businesses do the equivalent (ie agree to fix prices), their managers are (rightly) fined and vilified.”
Rightly so. Someone ought test case this next time unions try this on.
There’s only one group who’ve been shown to do something illegal with Workchoices and that’s employers who took the legislation as carte blanche to chop blindly into their employees. If we had to waste money on advertising “information” about Workchoices, it should have been aimed squarely at those employees, not at unions or individuals.
Why would employers take the axe against workers without good reason? It’s irrational behaviour.
You obviously believed the unions dishonest adds. Big mistake.
I didn’t believe the unions ads JC, I believed the government when they reported just how many AWA’s they had received that were not only in breach of the “fairness test”, but in breach of the original legislation. Andrews really screwed the pooch with this dogs breakfast.
How many were there, David? How many were actually real claims? Do you know?
(trying post without the links)
Tasmanian hotel fined $170000 for breaches.
Mid-north coast NSW clubs fined (breaches due to complexity of legislation)
There are plenty more. It’s trivial to find pages and pages of them.
Has the fairness test fixed these issues? 9% of agreements are apparently now rejected as they don’t pass (wow, talk about efficiency gains!)
It’s a farce JC. You know it – you admitted as much over at Catallaxy. Nick Minchin admitted as much to the H.R. Pufnstuf society (“didn’t go far enough”).
Even Andrew Norton admitted he had some disquiet over the removal of some collective bargaining rights (you libertarians do so love authority).
I’m not admitting anything, David. I don’t particularly think WorkC was the best possible outcome. However its better than what we had before in terms of firms being able to hire who they like and set wage rates at closer to markets levels. That’s an improvement than before no matter how imperfect.
But you have no place arguing these points as you’re doing so in bad faith. Truth is that you don’t support free labor markets preferring what was served up to Julia Chavez by the union heavies.. Out of the two, I’d pick workC. Which do you go for?
So thanks for explaining WorkC is not ideal from a free markets perspective. I only wished you believed that too.
David, understand one thing. You and many others are confused as to who owns a job. A job is not the workers property right; it belongs to the employer, which he ought to be able to do what he likes with it. You seem to think the opposite.
I have no great issue with collective bargaining, however the firm should have the right to personally sue for losses anyone who broke a agreements. Collective bargaining is collusion in the same way you would accuse Visyboard of collusion.
You seem to think that hard pressure tactics like collective bargaining will create favorable outcomes for all workers. It doesn’t. You can’t beat market forces and markets will clear surplus labor in the same way they behave in other parts of the economy. A union getting higher wages for its members will only cause someone else to be unemployed.
It’s gone backwards JC. The government is now involved in *every single AWA*. Every one, individually scrutinised. That’s more public servants than before, not less. It’s more costs for employers, not less. It’s more hassle for employees, not less.
It’s not better than before, it’s now worse in terms of government involvement and worse in terms of compliance costs. Those costs have to come from somewhere and the evidence so far seems to indicate it is coming from pay packets and admin costs. You would think deregulation would be a win-win for employers and employees (less cost, less hassle, less regulation means less time and less money wasted) but that simply hasn’t happened.
I’m no rusted on unionist (although I am a member of APESMA for selfish reasons: it’s a very cheap way of getting your contract appraised and an avenue for discount hotel rooms and insurance). If an individual can negotiate a better deal than they can get collectively, they ought to go for it. In any workplace, the two systems ought to be able to compete. Of the statistics released so far, Workchoices has been a complete failure. It is demonstrably worse than the broken system it replaced, something of an achievement I think, although not one to be trumpeting.
The best change is the right to hire and fire. I already told you that I don’t think the system is perfect, but it’s not as though labor is returning to the old ways either. All they want to do is slap awards on and reinstate the stealing that went with with “fair” dismisal laws.
I don’t actually hear that much complaint from firms about AWA’s as you portray. I’m sure you can shake one or two out ot the tree if you put your mind to it.
Labor rates have gone down for some people and new hires while our total wage bill is growing. That’s been a good thing no matter how imprfect the system.
As an employer I would want the right to fire bad employees whenever I like and not be have a gun pointed to my head. I would also be mindful of keeping good people.
“If an individual can negotiate a better deal than they can get collectively, they ought to go for it. In any workplace, the two systems ought to be able to compete.”
Bull. The last thing any employer wants is a gun held to their head by a bunch of workers who think thye can get away with a ransom demand that’s legally aided and abbeted collusion.
Hiring isn’t done en masse and neither should pay negotiations.
one can object to Union funds going into anything by bringing it up at their AGM , a bit like a company.
Like a company few object or care to stir.
Given the attitude most Australians have toward WC as opposed to unionists it is hard to believe many unionists do not believe it is not money well spent.
I think JC let his true feelings out of the bag.
They should have every right to hire and fire in other words the old master/ servant relationship.
For evidence that employers can be quite irrational one only needs to go back to the old AWIRS surveys which is why Reithy closed them down
This is rubbish JC – employees are being handed blanket AWA’s straight off the photocopier – no change, no variation or no job. That’s the reality. You want to remain ignorant of the facts that’s your lookout. I’m not attempting to change your mind, although I’m endlessly amused at how quickly your prejudices hoist your lip service libertarianism ideals to swing in the breeze at the first mention of the word union.
I have nothing against unions until the laws favour them. Unions are essentially parasitic groupings that raise the wages of their members at the expense of everyone else.
“They should have every right to hire and fire in other words the old master/ servant relationship.”
Homer, your an economist aren’t you? Perhaps you would care to explain to people why you don’t believe in free labor markets.
The very idea that a firm would fire good workers for the sake of firing them has to be the biggest absurdity that not even my pet dog would believe there are members of the humans species think this is possible.
“I’m endlessly amused at how quickly your prejudices hoist your lip service libertarianism ideals to swing in the breeze at the first mention of the word union.”
As I am endlessly amused at your total ignorance. Libertarian beliefs perfectly comply with the view that jobs are the property right of the owners of that job: the firm.
Now you may not agree with who actually onws the job, but you ought to be the last person preaching what libertarian philosophy says. you simply don’t know nor understand property rights.
JC, you’ve got things backwards here. In labour markets, firms are the customers and workers are the providers. As such, a worker has the property rights in his labour services.
“The very idea that a firm would fire good workers for the sake of firing them has to be the biggest absurdity”
Yes, but as with all decisions in the market, reasons can be very petty, irrational, or downright nasty. And besides, the definition of a ‘good’ worker does not necessarily match up with what’s best for the business.
To take an example of the petty, a friend of mine is getting sacked as she asked last week to take 5 days off in January. The manager’s reply was that she’d already filled out the roster, and counted on her working those days. Doing the sums, it likely works out to be cheaper to pay existing workers to cover the overtime during that period than sack, hire and train a newbie. But that’s what she’s doing.
“Hiring isn’t done en masse”
I don’t know where you’ve worked, but at the lower end of the job market (which is where all the concern regarding AWAs arises), mass recruitment drives are the standard practice.
“JC, you’ve got things backwards here. In labour markets, firms are the customers and workers are the providers. As such, a worker has the property rights in his labour services.”
I think you are a little confused here, Damien. the owner of the job is the firm. The owner of the labor service is the worker. The job is owned by the firm. Unless of course you’re talking about Marxist economics which means we could end up anywhere in the discussion other than correct conclusion.
You’re not a closet heterodoxer are you?
JC, you are not making any sense. What has Marxism or Heterodox economics got do to do with it? Firms compensate workers in return for the use of their labour for purposes that have not been disallowed by their employment agrrement. The worker’s property right is in the use of his labour services, while the employer’s property right is the in the money (or other resources) that he could use to pay an employee’s wages. The employment contract involves an exchange of these property rights.
Sorry if I’m confused if you’re confused:
Here’s what i wrote:
“Libertarian beliefs perfectly comply with the view that jobs are the property right of the owners of that job: the firm”
That’s seems perfectly clear that ought to be something that even a 12 grader would understand.
But let’s elaborate, shall we?
The activities that relate to a job in terms its functions are the property rights of the owner.- the firm. The firm decides who enters its premises and gets paid to perform the assigned tasks. Is that clear? The worker owns his or her labor service, which is really time in it’s most basic form. Now is that clear?
This is what you said:
“JC, you’ve got things backwards here. In labour markets, firms are the customers and workers are the providers. As such, a worker has the property rights in his labour services.”
Frankly I don’t know why you even bring this up, as it is irrelevant to the discussion as to who owns a job.
And then I replied:
“I think you are a little confused here, Damien. the owner of the job is the firm. The owner of the labor service is the worker. The firm owns the job. Unless of course you’re talking about Marxist economics which means we could end up anywhere in the discussion other than correct conclusion.
You’re not a closet heterodoxer are you?”
The last two sentences were meant to be ironic. But now I am not sure because you veered off the highway with this irrelevancy:
“Firms compensate workers in return for the use of their labour for purposes that have not been disallowed by their employment agreement. The worker’s property right is in the use of his labour services, while the employer’s property right is the in the money (or other resources) that he could use to pay an employee’s wages. The employment contract involves an exchange of these property rights.”
So let me ask you. Who owns the job? Not the labor, not the contract, no the time etc.. Just answer who owns the job. Is it the firm or the worker?
Workers are at liberty to be an integrated part of the firm as owners as much as managerial workers are. Unfair dismissal laws were a step in that direction and allowed external ajudication to decide who was in fact in the wrong rather than allowing the management to decide erroniously thereby jeopardising workplace initiative.
In contemporary Australia, the current owners are backward parasites and the land is barren as a result. Volvos are better quality than fords because workers are involved in the firm’s ownership. The scandic economies are wealthier than Australia through libertarian socialism.
Libertarian -anarchism /-capitalism /-socialism etc..
None of which you understand JC because you drive a luxury car as provided by the state currency of reserve bank, and then claim that the reserve bank only provides for economic needs.
Give you two paragraphs and you will write yourself off.
Give you an autobahn like the one 10 minutes form here on an icy day..
That will sort the icecream vendors out from the cassowaries.
Where are you now?
In the Alps, in a spa, telepathically overriding the thought commands of the gnomes of Zurich..
Mind you GMB is in fine form now that he is not using so many cuss words and this is a bit distracting.
JC, nobody owns the job. The “job” is simply the transaction between the employer and the employee. Does a “job” exist if there is nobody willing to do it? Does a job exist if their is nobody willing to pay someone to do it? The answer to both of these questions is clearly “no”.
Parko: Just behave yourself and don’t get into any mischief in the German cantons.
Move to Geneva. It’s the msot beautiful place on the planet.
Now let go deal with Damien here who thinks differently.
“JC, nobody owns the job.”
Ok then. I’m walking in Rio’s office tomorrow and demanding the CEO’s job on your advice. Hell why stop there, let me try it out with General electric or Citigroup.
“The “job” is simply the transaction between the employer and the employee.”
It is a transaction. But you seem to be missing a vital point.
A job is a set of tasks requiring they be done in a certainly way as instructed by the firm. There are obvious property rights attached them which may seem ephemeral to you but they do exist.
“Does a job exist if their is nobody willing to pay someone to do it?”
What a silly question. It seems the problem is that you are unable to see the other side of that question , or rather the other part that needs to be asked. If the job didn’t exist would the worker get paid?
There is an abvious exchange that takes place, isn’t there. The worker agrees to perform the task required of him by the firm and s/he gets paid for the labor..
Now please answer my question:
Who owns the job the firm or the worker?
In fact let me ask you this question as well.
Who own the labor?
JC, neither party to a transaction is able to unilatelly demand that the transaction take place. This doresn’t mean that one party must own the transaction.
I’m sorry Damien, but jobs are owned, and they are owned by the employer. The employer has property rights over how the job is performed, whether it is performed, when it is performed and the like. The employer generally interviews prospective employees, not the other way round. To be sure, the job may be more of less valuable on the market (in salary terms) than the employer thinks, but that does not undermine the argument that property rights exist and they belong to the employer.
For what it’s worth, I’m with Damien on this one. Economically speaking, a job is an exchange of labour for money, simple as that. A property right is a right “against the world” – eg I own my car, I own my house (well, the bank does…), I own my TV, I own my potplant. No one can take those away from me (leaving aside expropriation). But my job is what I call an agreement between me and my employer. The job can end either if my boss tells me not to turn up, or if I decide not to turn up. But the job is not a right held against the world by either me or my employer.
But what does this have to do with anything anyway? Aren’t we all agreed here that employers should be able to employ who they want, and employees should be able to accept jobs, at whatever wage rate the parties negotiate?
If we listened to the language people use, we’d assume workers own jobs. They use the same language of ownership – ‘my job’ – as they do for material possessions – ‘my car’, ‘my house’. If employers use that language, they are talking about their own position in the workplace and not somebody else’s position.
But I think Damien and Rajat’s position here is preferable, a job is a contract rather than a property right in itself. The parties may offer their property in the contract – such as money and the right to use or control various assets on the part of the employer and time on the part of the employee – but there is no ownership in the job.
That’s not a property right? What about the converse, do we all agree that employees should be able to work for whom they want? At the job they want?
Really? I’m not sure what set of twisted “property rights” encompass freely entered into contracts – you might want to buy a dictionary.
Yes, Sinclair, no disagreement on that from me. BTW, Andrew, I also say “My Foxtel”, but that’s just a contract too!
Sinc – Employers can use their property rights over their money and access to their facilities to control who works for them, but unless somebody else agrees to do so there is no ‘job’. Since employers have no right to take the time and skills of employees without their consent, I don’t think the idea of property in a job is accurate or helpful to understanding the mechanisms for creating value through employment. Contract, not property, is the most important idea here.
Andrew – we’re going to have to disagree. Jobs do not come into existence when an employment contract is made. A job comes into existence when an entrepreneur realises that activity x or y needs to be undertaken. Or when the entrepreneur realises that activity x can be profitably sudivided into activities y and z. Then the entrepreneur employs someone to do that job. In this example, the job is the intellectual property of the entrepreneur. Even in the bureaucratic nightmare that is the modern university, we begin by saying we need someone to teach x, and then we find someone. The job predates the employment contract.
Sinclair, the vacancy precedes the employment contract, not the job. The entrepreneur is the proud owner of a vacancy while the job isn’t being done.
I agree, they are the proud owner. Please, lets not get carried away – I’m not saying that workers are unnecessary to the production process. I am saying they only own their labour (including human capital), everything else is owned by the employer.
No Sinclair – that definition is Marxism and leads to all sorts of stupidity. After the job is contracted, it’s a contract between the employer and the employee for their mutual benefit – the entrepreneur is *still* the proud owner of a vacancy, only now it’s filled. Property rights have nothing to do with the exchange of labour for wages other than allowing employees onto your premises and supplying them with equipment.
Please try to be coherent for a minute.
The tasks, the place (most times) the equipment … all belong to the firm. This bundled up set of “stuff” is owned by the firm.
If one dosn’t want to think of it that way then:
a firm rents labor per unit of time.
Maybe the latter way is the best way to look at things.
Don’t bring Marx into as it has no relevance. Marx was on about the value of labor that was and continues to be discredited junk.
David, it’s been many years since I last read Marx. Yet I do rcall that he advocated the abolishen of property. So to argue that a job belongs to the employer is not Marxist. But it is Schumpeterian. From McCraw’s recent biography (pg. 147)
Both JC and I are arguing that jobs do not belong to employees, they belong to the employer. That is the economic reality. The Howard government made this legally obvious with their WorkChoices legislation. Now that may be a truth too far, but true it remains.
To be sure, the employer needs the employee, and without the employee gets nowhere. Nobody disputes that.
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