||Issue No. 271||08 July 2005|
Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
Do It Yourself?
Vale the Eight Hour Day
The vision thing
Campaign Pushes Right Buttons
It’s Time to Punt the PM
Bob Each Way
Hits the Mark
Reforms not an Erosion
The shift in public opinion charted by newspaper polls this week is totally consistent with the internal research underpinning this campaign - that when people engage in this issue they are vehemently opposed to the government.
Polls seldom move 10 per cent - and that they've done so backed by 60 per cent opposition to the changes - is proof that engagement has now occurred and the government's preferred strategy of flying the changes under the radar has been defeated.
Instead they are about to throw a bucket of our money at the issue - but what are they going to say? Maybe they will villify unions. Maybe we'll see legions of funky young workers free of the shackles of workers rights' - or maybe they will just try to shove it down our throats as being in the national economic interest.
This final approach strikes me as a modern adaptation of the old Nestle Quik ads. Remember, "Go on Freddy drink it. Drink it." Only I doubt this cup will taste as good.
This is not to underestimate the Prime Minister's ability to sell unpopular policies. From GST to the War on Iraq he has used a potent brew of wedge politics, and publicly funded advertising to shift the public mood.
But this time the task may be tougher because this is a very different sort of campaign to the ones that have been run from the progressive left in recent times.
Think about the last decade: reconciliation, the republic, refugees, and the War on Iraq - all worthy causes, but all about symbolic issues that affect our conscience rather than our hip pocket.
In fact, there is one analysis of the Tampa that sees the whole refugee debate as a diversion from hip pocket insecurity about economic globalisation, with the Prime Minister using it to divert our fears about free trade into the border protection issue.
This is where the rights at work campaign is a totally different sort of beast to campaigns run from the Left in recent times.
The changes being proposed by the government hit at the living standards of every Australian.
Issues like annual leave, penalty rates and unfair dismissal are tangible rights. Not every one may know how they work or where they come from, but the idea of losing them is none too attractive.
And the early responses by Minister Andrews such as "the world doesn't owe us a living" and "we have to compete in a global economy" are not the sort of reassurances the punters want to hear.
If we have learnt anything in the years of the Howard Government it is that economic indicators can be manipulated and that truth is an elusive commodity - and there is a growing feeling that what is good for the economy is often at the expense of working people.
At the end of the day the question comes down to this: how can taking away workers rights and weakening Australian families be in the national interest?
This is the question where the government carries the onus of proof and while international tragedy may delay the day of reckoning it won't postpone it.
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