WorkChoices research cost $1.6m
Mark Davis Political Correspondent, SMH
November 7, 2008
THE Howard government spent $1.6 million in taxpayer funds to survey voters on the hot-button political issue of industrial relations from April last year right up until the election campaign started in October.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has revealed in its annual report that it contracted the Melbourne market research and polling firm Open Mind Research to carry out the regular surveys.
The research was to help shape the government's second major wave of advertising during the 2007 election year, promoting its changes to its WorkChoices legislation.
The survey results would have also given senior ministers insights into voter sentiment, including the attitudes of electorally important demographic groups, to its industrial relations policies and messages.
The research by Open Mind in 2007 followed $1.8 million in similar taxpayer-funded polling commissioned by the Howard government in late 2005 and early 2006 from market research firm Colmar Brunton. That polling surveyed thousands of voters to track how they were responding to the Government's first $46 million advertising campaign on WorkChoices.
The department's latest disclosures of its consultancy contracts show Open Mind was engaged to carry out the research from April 10, three weeks before the then Prime Minister, John Howard, announced the government was changing WorkChoices to include a "fairness test".
The research contract ran until October 15, the day after Mr Howard called the election.