Managing expectations: The Howard government's workchoices information campaign

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




van Onselen, P., & Errington, W. (2007). Managing Expectations: The Howard Government's Workchoices Information Campaign. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, (123), 5. Available here


This article analyses the Howard government's $55 million information campaign to sell its new industrial relations (IR) reforms. The expensive advertising campaign was spread across newspapers, television channels, radio stations and even on internet sites. It was widely criticised by media professionals, politicians and interest groups. The IR information campaign was an example of 'permanent campaigning' because it was an overtly partisan information campaign that appeared in the middle of an electoral cycle. It was also emblematic of the blurred lines between government and political advertising. However, the IR information campaign also revealed the limitations of incumbency advantage and the limitations to some aspects of the modern trend towards permanent campaigning. Public anger over the plethora of taxpayer-funded advertisements limited the effectiveness of the messages being delivered. The government persisted with the information campaign - perhaps a signal it was designed not to turn public opinion in favour of the reforms, but to prevent an increase in public dissatisfaction following the negative campaign being waged by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).