WorkChoices the big election worry, not climate change

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WorkChoices the big election worry, not climate change

More than half the people polled on the federal election result believe that it was WorkChoices which cost the Coalition office – and, by contrast, climate change was a surprisingly minor issue on its own.

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More than half the people polled on the federal election result believe that it was WorkChoices which cost the Coalition office – and, by contrast, climate change was a surprisingly minor issue on its own.

The poll, undertaken by Ipsos (a market research firm) for Channel 10’s Meet The Press program, showed 53% thought WorkChoices was the main reason for the Coalition loss.

Of the 1035 people polled, 21.5% said John Howard’s retirement plan; 15% said length of time in government; 2.5% said climate change; and 8% said other.

The 2.5% saying climate change seems surprisingly small considering it was a significant election issue, but Dr Rebecca Huntley from Ipsos said climate change was mixed in with WorkChoices in the public mind.

Combination of WorkChoices and climate change

She told Meet The Press she believed that it was the combination of WorkChoices and other policy issues like climate change that made the Australian public prepared to make the change.

‘For example, we had a really telling comment in our mind and mood research where a man said in one of our groups, he said, “Look, it’s the combination of WorkChoices and climate change. The Government wanted change on WorkChoices and we didn’t. On climate change, we wanted change, and the Government didn’t.” '

Sense of disjuncture

‘There’s that sense of disjuncture there,’ she said.

Huntley said the election result was not just about the content of the policy.

‘The thing that was interesting to me about that is there was a sense that the capacity of John Howard, and his great strength of being the reasonable man of Australian politics and presenting himself as reflective of what ordinary Australians think, had suddenly come loose a bit,’ she said.

Fatigue a factor

‘We can’t underestimate the nature of fatigue. In January and February we were already showing that people were a little tired with the Government. A new contender came on the block.

‘I think WorkChoices was a big part of it but perhaps something else might have come in to the fray. But WorkChoices certainly for a lot of people in our research seemed to go to the idea was the Government being fair?

‘The other thing about WorkChoices is it made people feel insecure at a time when perhaps they wouldn’t normally feel insecure. It kicked away potentially at people's employment security at a time when they realised they were under extraordinary amounts of debt, paying more for petrol and food and so forth. So it was kind of that cumulative effect.’

Unfair dismissals

Huntley said the unfair dismissal laws came up as an election issue and there was a range of views about it.

‘It didn’t come up extensively,’ she said. ‘But from those people who had extensive experience with small business or were small business owners, they saw that former unfair dismissal laws were perhaps too much of a burden on small business.

‘But there was a sense if you were working for a large organisation, 200 or 300 people, you’d been working for a long time, that you should be able to have access to unfair dismissal laws.’


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