The funny thing about political rhetoric is that just like the race for government, it seems to be an all or nothing contest. John Howard, and tons of other Coalition pollies, have all been claiming that WorkChoices was not an issue in the Queensland Beattie landslide. Kim Beazley appears to be saying that it was all about IR.
IR was a factor. Neither the assertion that it was what the election was all about nor the assertion that it was irrelevant is remotely valid. The truth – as disclosed in our National Forum focus group research during the campaign – is that it was one factor a significant number of voters were concerned about and tended to hold some in the Labor camp who would otherwise not have stayed with Beattie, and attracted some swinging voters to Labor.
The ALP wouldn’t have bothered making ads about it if they weren’t getting the same from their research – and the Coalition wouldn’t have been promising to maintain state awards for public sector employees if they hadn’t also picked it up in their research.
Conversely, Kim Beazley (and the ACTU for that matter) shouldn’t make the lazy assumption that the Federal election will be all about IR. That would be exactly the wrong message to take from the significance it did indeed have in the Queensland poll.
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Liberal strategists know that it’s an issue that is working heavily against them. But they also know that it’s only one issue among many, and they hope to overwhelm the ALP with other economic and security issues. Federal Labor shouldn’t listen either to Kim Beazley on this one or to John Howard. IR is potentially electoral poison to the Federal Coalition. But the true message from the Queensland poll is that it won’t be enough of itself.