$55m to launch WorkChoices, and $66m to 'bury' it: Gillard

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$55m to launch WorkChoices, and $66m to 'bury' it: Gillard

Advertising for Prime Minister Howard's WorkChoices laws has now cost taxpayers $121m, according to the latest figures - and Labor says it has been a waste of money. However, Minister Hockey said the Government has a responsibility to inform Australians about where they stand under WorkChoices.

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Advertising for Prime Minister Howard's WorkChoices laws has now cost taxpayers $121m, according to the latest figures - and Labor says it has been a waste of money. However, Minister Hockey said the Government has a responsibility to inform Australians about where they stand under WorkChoices.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released this week show that $55m was spent on advertising when WorkChoices was brought in, and another $66m after the fairness test was introduced.

'In effect, [Prime Minister] Howard wasted $55m to launch WorkChoices and another $66m to bury it,' said Opposition IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard.

Ripped off twice

'The working Australians who have been ripped off by these laws are also the taxpayers who have been ripped off by these ads.'

Gillard said the figures showed that during the 15 weeks between the start of the 2007-08 financial year and the calling of the election, the Howard Government spent $61m on this advertising - more than $4m per week just on WorkChoices advertising.

'This is the campaign that brought Australians such memorable moments as the actor who had himself underpaid workers and actors pretending to be Workplace Authority staff,' she said. 'The ads were as fake as the Howard Government's fairness test - which it turned out was administered by backpackers.'

No need for apology, says Hockey

However Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey said he made no apologies for spending $121m advertising the Government's WorkChoices legislation. He pointed to the Government's responsibility to inform Australians where they stand under WorkChoices.

'Kevin Rudd and the union bosses who control over 70% of his frontbench have spent millions of dollars on a massive scare campaign designed to confuse and misinform working families,' he said. 'Therefore we make no apologies for properly informing working Australians about the protections that exist under the workplace relations system.'

Review of government advertising

Gillard said, in a radio interview this week, that if Labor won the Federal election the Auditor-General would make the decision whether a Government ad was information or propaganda.

'You would expect the Auditor-General to say something like the QUIT campaign about not smoking - that would pass the test, that would be Government funded,' she said. 'But this kind of party political propaganda, the Auditor-General I'm sure would say no to.

Interviewer: 'But you could drive a truck through that, couldn't you? Because the Government could say it's in the interest of ordinary Australians that they know what their WorkChoices legislation actually says.

Gillard: 'But on any criteria, these advertisements have not been information advertisements. I mean, lets think about some of them.

'You've got a so-called dad, at the football with his son - and then the dad turns out to be an actor who has actually underpaid workers. We've got two blokes musing about employment in a pub. These aren't information advertisements.

Independent discretion

'And of course we wouldn't be telling the Auditor-General how to go about doing his job. We'd be saying to the Auditor-General, you're an independent statutory office holder and we want to make sure that you are exercising your independent discretion to work out what is genuine.'

Gillard said that reduction in advertising expenditure was among the $3bn in savings that Labor had identified in Government spending.

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