Dealing with the unions appears to be problematic for the Prime Minister. He used yesterday’s employment figures to rush out and hold a full scale presser in the Prime Ministerial Courtyard to say that they proved WorkChoices is working.

As, of course, he would. What politician wouldn’t jump on a favourable economic indicator if it seemed to support their case?

But the PM also probably realised – or had been told – that he had given the union movement an almighty fillip the day before.

He got quite carried away in a doorstop on Wednesday when he denounced the advertising campaign the Australian Education Union is running in 20 marginals. “That’s a dishonest advertisement, a dishonest advertisement…” was how his response began. He immediately turned the ads into a major story – Howard and the unions fighting (again) over a Labor issue, education.

The John Howard of old would have brushed it off with something like “Unions attacking me? What do you expect?” Instead, he guaranteed it a huge run.

Yesterday’s effort didn’t do much to compensate.