And the Howard government's advertising spending splurge just keeps on getting bigger :
It looks like the anger and outrage from the Australian public, aired all over the media yesterday has already forced the government to rein in its splurging on propaganda relating to workplace changes :
THE Federal Government plans to spend $111.2 million on advertising campaigns this year on everything from bushfire awareness and cervical cancer vaccinations to sensitive policy debates such as workplace relations and private health insurance.
As the Coalition and Labor clashed over whether the Government was running politically motivated advertisements, officials from the Prime Minister's department told a Senate estimates hearing there were 18 current campaigns.
The budget for buying media space for these campaigns was $111.2 million - not including expenses such as advertising agency fees or market research.
The most expensive campaigns included Defence Force recruitment advertisements, with a $17.4 million media placement budget, advertisements promoting superannuation tax changes - $15.8 million - and a $14.5 million campaign promoting private health insurance.
Of course the Howard government loves to prattle on and on about its "prudent economic management." It's already clear that Howard & Co. are going to use the good health of the Australian economy as the backbone of its re-election campaign.
Outside the hearing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, said no decision had been made on whether to continue the industrial relations ads beyond this week.
He conceded the Government had got its original Work Choices legislation wrong by allowing employers to negotiate agreements that removed entitlements such as penalty rates without compensation. "I wasn't the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations in the past, but if you're saying to me that we got it wrong in the past, well we did."
"We got it wrong."
Labor's industrial relations spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said that as well as the $4 million cost of media space for the campaign, $475,000 had been spent on newspaper advertisements the weekend after it was decided to change Work Choices.
"The Prime Minister has failed to explain how wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars on pre-election PR campaigns is compatible with prudent economic management."
As usual, though, the Howard government only signaled a change of its splurging habits when it became clear the public was disgusted, and this level of disgust would impact on its re-election chances, as grim as they already are.