Labor kicked off question time yesterday with a question on IR. Not a bad move. While there’ll be some barnyard antics on voluntary student unionism legislation, that doesn’t really count as an issue. With Telstra through, the Government’s IR laws will be the next big fight.

All of which makes today’s Daily Telegraphreport “It Doesn’t Work” a worthwhile read:

The Federal Government is set to guarantee workers 10 sick days a year but secret focus groups used to trial its $20 million advertising campaign on workplace reforms have been left confused and concerned about the changes.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Government used storyboards for its upcoming TV advertising blitz to test voter reaction but those who took part felt they were still left in the dark.

Among the revelations in the secret sessions was a plan to enshrine a minimum of 10 days annual sick or personal leave in legislation and a proposal to send a booklet to every household to promote the reforms.

The Federal Government is also using two of at least six ads to spruik the benefits of individual contracts, showcasing a removalist working longer daily hours in exchange for days off and another worker putting in 43 hours a week so he can send his daughter to a private school.

Sources in the secret focus groups have revealed that the main government commercial – described as the “motherhood” ad – focused on economic issues and appealed to people’s patriotism, using the theme “Australia we have an opportunity.”

But this was poorly regarded by the focus group participants who felt it was light on detail and distant from people’s lives. It was also noted that virtually no blue-collar workers appeared in the main ad…

You get the picture, we’re sure. And the Telegraph’s editorial on the subject isn’t bad, either:

Federal Government plans to give a $20 million advertising gloss to its proposed industrial relations reforms appears to have come a little unstuck after adverse reactions from a series of focus groups trialling the advertising concepts. So here’s a money-saving suggestion for the Government; let’s see the legislation – rather than the ads – so we know what is proposed. That way the entire community can be the “focus group.” What better test of public opinion could you get?

Peter Fray

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