The Howard government's industrial relations information campaign and the limits to incumbency advantage
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Education and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
The concept of the permanent campaign was recently reviewed by American political scientists Mann and Ornstein (2000). At the 2005 ANZCA conference we discussed the extent to which the permanent campaign had come to Australia, using communications strategies at the 2004 federal election as a case study. This paper analyses the Howard government's $55m information campaign to sell its new industrial relations (IR) reforms. The expensive advertising campaign was spread across newspapers, television channels, radio stations and even internet sites. It was widely criticised by media professionals, politicians and interest groups alike. The IR information campaign was an example of permanent campaigning in so far as it was an overtly partisan information campaign in the middle of an electoral cycle. However, it also revealed the limitations of incumbency advantage. Public anger over the plethora of taxpayer funded IR advertisements was symptomatic of declining public trust in politicians not to partake in overtly partisan activities. It may be that non-partisan government advertising that genuinely informs the public of initiatives and outcomes is of more political benefit to a government than overtly partisan campaigns such as the recent IR campaign.