Business joins Libs in IR advertising battle


Business joins Libs in IR advertising battle

The Liberal Party appears to have taken over running of a sector of the business community's advertising campaign in support of the Federal Government's industrial relations laws.


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The Liberal Party appears to have taken over running of a sector of the business community's advertising campaign in support of the Federal Government's industrial relations laws.

A Business Council of Australia (BCA) document leaked to the media reveals that Liberal Party pollster Mark Textor has been appointed director for the proposed business advertising campaign, costing up to $10.5m, to defend WorkChoices.

Confidential minutes

Media reports say the confidential minutes of a 6 June planning meeting show the business campaign, to start next month, will be run by Crosby/Textor, the firm that works extensively for the Liberals in doing election polling.

Prime Minister John Howard, in early April, called on business to start running an advertising campaign to counter the very successful anti-WorkChoices ad blitz by the ACTU.

ACTU campaign

The ACTU is also campaigning in marginal seats to try to defeat the Government over its IR laws. Howard and senior Ministers last week criticised the ACTU for its plan to contact union members in those seats to persuade them not to vote Liberal. The Government called this 'dirty tricks'.

The Age newspaper says it has a 'file note' from the BCA planning meeting which says: 'The group agreed to appoint Crosby/Textor to project manage the campaign. This has been confirmed with Mark Textor. Crosby/Textor to provide a campaign framework and timeline within the next week.'

Liberal connections

It names Crosby/Textor's Tony Barry, a former Liberal Deputy Director in Victoria, as confirmed as operations director, with the creative directors 'to be confirmed by Crosby/Textor'.

Mark Textor's partner in the business is former Liberal Party Federal Director, Lynton Crosby.

The Age quotes Textor as saying: 'Crosby/Textor hasn't been appointed for any campaign and there's been no confirmed arrangement with any specific business group at this time.'

Key messages

However, The Age says a summary of recent focus group work for the business council was presented by Textor and possible key messages to be developed included:

  • The prospect of unions being back in the workplace (from 'an individual/emotional perspective').
  • Concerns about the economic implications of going backwards (a 'rational argument based on statistics/research').
  • The benefits of economic reform — how current prosperity was achieved.
  • Articulation of a belief in individuals as being aspirational and able to respond to challenges, in contrast to the paternalistic victim view of the unions (everyone needs to be sheltered/protected).'

The group acknowledged that that at least $6.5m would have to be raised for 'a serious campaign' and amounts up to $10.5m were discussed for the TV, print, internet and billboard advertising, which will run for five to six weeks, from mid-July into August.

The election is expected in October/November.

Former Peter Reith employees

The campaign is reportedly being driven by Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) Chief Executive, Peter Hendy, a former Chief of Staff to former Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith.

The Australian Industry Group (AiG), headed by Heather Ridout, has refused to have anything to do with the campaign, saying it does not get involved in politics.

The Sydney Morning Herald says Tony Barry, who works for Crosby/Textor and was the former Victorian Liberal Party Deputy Director, has been appointed operations director for the campaign.

It says other campaign committee members include ACCI's Workplace Policy Director, Peter Anderson, and its Communications Director, Brett Hogan, all of whom once worked for the former Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith.

Fear of Labor backlash

The Herald quotes a 'business figure' as saying unions had long been part of the political process and were expected to run campaigns.

'Business is not like that. Business associations are about issues and the best interest of their members. They shouldn't be part of the political process like this,' the business figure said.

The Herald quoted one concerned business figure, as saying the campaign document read more like a Liberal Party strategy than a business campaign, and warned of a possible backlash should Labor win this year's election.


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