There has been a wonderful lesson for lobbyists in the events of this week. The sight of Prime Minister John Howard and his ministerial colleagues waving around the ACTU handbook for influencing public opinion made me wince. Such a document should never have existed. The best laid plans in the murky world of politics are never written down.

Not that there is anything very exceptional in the details of the trade union marginal seats campaign that Mr Howard portrayed as contained in the “dirty tricks manual”.

It reads to me like a fairly standard description of what political parties and pressure groups have been getting up to for years. It is just that there are some sensitive souls among the manipulated who prefer not to realize that they are being manipulated. The art of the hidden persuader should be just that.

The difficulty for practitioners of these fine arts of democracy arises because the client is invariably a bureaucracy of one kind or another and there is a fee or two to be justified at the end of the day. Only the truly courageous chief executive is prepared to authorize a plan and then pay the bill without reams of paper work pretending to justify it.

Occasionally as a lobbyist I found a client like the Forest Protection Society, nestled under the umbrella of the National Association of Forest Industries, which understood it was the results that counted not the process but they were an all too rare group of realists in my experience.

So it is that documents like that of the ACTU are prepared and circulated with the risk increasing with every copy made that they will fall in to the wrong hands and divert attention from the job in hand.

At the very least such grand plans should be split up in sections given to people only on a need to know basis with the complete work left solely in the hands of the person at the top.