Howard ignored his own polls
Mark Davis, Political Correspondent, smh
March 7, 2008
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Howard slams workplace U-turn
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Comment: A case of political pride coming before a fall
PDF: Read the secret research
SECRET research handed to the Howard government showed its $46 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign to promote Work Choices failed dismally.
The research - based on polls of hundreds of people every fortnight from August 2005 to February 2006 - showed that weeks of TV advertising only served to entrench apprehension about Work Choices - which John Howard is still defending while on the lecture circuit in Washington.
Despite the evidence, the government pressed on with another $20 million in Work Choices publicity over the next 18 months.
Mr Howard told an audience at a Washington conservative think tank on Wednesday that it was a mistake for Labor to reverse the workplace changes.
"It would be the first time in 25 years that a major economic reform in my country has been reversed," he said. "In particular, bringing back the old unfair dismissal laws will stifle employment and growth in small business."
His first major speech since the election, in which he aggressively defended his legacy, came as the Herald obtained market research tracking surveys on the Work Choices advertising campaign.
They were obtained after an 18-month tussle with the Department of Workplace Relations, which put off releasing them under freedom of information laws until after the election.
As part of its original TV, radio and newspaper ads on Work Choices, the government spent $1.8 million engaging Colmar Brunton Social Research to track how the public was responding to the sales effort. Colmar Brunton began its surveys in early August on attitudes to the existing industrial relations system and the planned changes.
It polled samples of 500 people, comprising 400 employees and 100 non-employees, every fortnight until February 2006. By the end it had polled 6253 people.
Reports on the tracking research were handed to the government each fortnight.
They showed that at the start of the exercise, in early August 2005, sizeable majorities had positive attitudes towards the existing system and negative attitudes about planned changes. By the end, after the TV campaign had dominated the airwaves for weeks, opinion remained solidly against Work Choices.
The Colmar Brunton reports show that by February 2006 only 15 per cent of all those polled were satisfied with the government's planned changes, unchanged from the level of satisfaction before the ad campaign began.
By contrast, 65 per cent of employees were satisfied with the old system, most saying it was fair, protected employees, and allowed flexible working arrangements.
The surveys found that by the end of the ad campaign only 13 per cent of employees agreed that Work Choices would be fairer, and just 11 per cent agreed that it would protect employees.
Sixty-eight per cent agreed with the statement that Work Choices would benefit employers.
Less than one in four thought Work Choices would be good for the economy, while 37 per cent said it would take the needs of small business into account.