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McLeod's Pollsters
May 17, 2007 11:52 PM   Subscribe

As the countdown to the Australian federal election continues ever onward, the key issue looks set to be industrial relations. The incumbent Howard Government's WorkChoices laws (now re-branded due to their increasing unpopularity) have seen the poll figures for challenger Kevin Rudd go up and up and up. But even as the Government prepares to unleash a major advertisement spree in an attempt to sell the alleged benefits of Work Choices, the new laws have come under attack from the most unlikely of places; popular prime time TV soap McLeod's Daughters, which last night aired this thinly veiled assault (youtube) on the central element of WorkChoices, AWAs.
posted by Effigy2000 (36 comments total)

 
For those from outside Australia, some context is useful. McLeod's Daughters is one of Australia's most popular soaps and airs in prime time on Australia's biggest commercial television station, Channel 9. For a show like this to launch such a thinly veiled piece of political propaganda against workplace laws that a big business like Channel 9 would normally be in favor of (let alone the simple fact that it made it to air), is nothing short of extraordinary. Even more so in an election year, with less than six months to go until said election is held.

This, more than anything we have yet seen, is perhaps the clearest sign yet of how unpopular these laws have become amongst average Australians and seem to point to an imminent end of the Howard Government which has enjoyed so much political fortune over the last 11 years.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:54 PM on May 17, 2007


OK, I'm looking at the graphs, and I'm confused by all of this.

1. Howard is blue, right? Is he Labour?

2. Is the "Two-Party Coalition" the opposition?

3. What happened in December/January to swing public sentiment towards the opposition?

Sorry if these are dumb questions, but as an American all I know about Australia I learned from Crocodile Dundee, the Crocodile Hunter, and Outback Steakhouse.
posted by dw at 11:58 PM on May 17, 2007


dw: "Sorry if these are dumb questions, but as an American all I know about Australia I learned from Crocodile Dundee, the Crocodile Hunter, and Outback Steakhouse."

No worries dw. They're not dumb questions at all and I'm happy to answer them for you.

1. Howard is blue, right? Is he Labour?

In reference to the 'Preferred PM chart', Howard (our PM) is blue but he isn't Labor.

2. Is the "Two-Party Coalition" the opposition?

No. The Two-Party Coalition is the Howard Government, which is a coalition of the Liberal Party and National Party of Australia. In US terms, they are on the same political spectrum as the Republicans.

3. What happened in December/January to swing public sentiment towards the opposition?

The very simple answer to this is Kevin Rudd became leader of the Opposition after ousting previous Opposition leader Kim Beazley.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:05 AM on May 18, 2007


Wow! That was in-your-face. Thanks for this. I would have missed it, not being a McLeod's Daughters watcher. If this blows up, Howard's mob will be all over McGuire. Boning time!
posted by tellurian at 12:06 AM on May 18, 2007


Heh, heh, heh.

Kevinism rises!
posted by Wolof at 12:09 AM on May 18, 2007


Ah, but McGuire has stepped down. Keep up with the buisness gossip, tellurian!
posted by liquorice at 12:10 AM on May 18, 2007


tellurian: "Wow! That was in-your-face. Thanks for this. I would have missed it, not being a McLeod's Daughters watcher. If this blows up, Howard's mob will be all over McGuire. Boning time!"

I'm not a MecLeod's Daughter's watcher either, and like you, I would have missed it too had I not done some extra reading of the news sites today, which is why I posted it. As you say, it's very much in your face, though I doubt Howard's mob will be too concerned with Eddie following todays events.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:11 AM on May 18, 2007


And Eddie (everywhere) McGuire gets boned today. Er...for our international friends - the controversial manager of the TV network that broadcast this "resigned" today.
posted by bystander at 12:12 AM on May 18, 2007


Oops...must preview.
And in tangentially related news, workers facing redundancy at Blundstone's Tasmanian plant are just walking out, forcing the boot maker to scramble to employ casual staff to keep production moving till it shifts off shore in November.
posted by bystander at 12:16 AM on May 18, 2007


Thanks Effigy2000.

The funny/sad thing is that Americans would kill to have the "reduced" level of benefits the AWA is offering. 4 weeks leave a year AND 10 personal days? Most Americans are lucky to get any sick days, period. 38 hours/week? I've been averaging 50.

So... you guys need web developers?
posted by dw at 12:21 AM on May 18, 2007


OK, I'm looking at the graphs, and I'm confused by all of this.

It's all perfectly simple.

Australia's ruling conservative party is called the Liberal Party. The opposing, allegedly more liberal party is called the Labor Party (yes, spelled the American way).

Other highlights include the Australian Democrats, who are republicans, a niche party called One Nation which is highly divisive, and The Greens, who are led by a man named Brown.
posted by dansdata at 12:43 AM on May 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


Hi dw...we could probably use more good web developers ;-)
The problem with the workchoices is that the conditions, which may look generous from a US viewpoint, are a reduction on current conditions, with no necessity for employers to offer a corresponding pay rise or other flexibility.
Also, new jobs need only offer the minimum.
The net result is a number of employers improving their profits by reducing their wage bills.
Australians are very mindful of the harm "at-will" and other low security employment practices have had in the US, and the negative effect especially on poorer people.
The general consensus seems to be it may *possibly* mean that our GDP goes up, but the vast majority would prefer weekends off with their families and public holiday pay than a handful of dollars.
There is more to life than economic growth, which seems to have not occurred to this government.
posted by bystander at 12:46 AM on May 18, 2007


Ha! This is brilliant. Should I start watching this show?

Does anyone want to take a guess as to why Rudd is running a campaign against Howard on a platform of lowering taxes, and why over the last few weeks his opposition to WorkChoices has gone so soft that it looks set to completely evaporate by the time of the election? Bad advisors or sincere foolishness? This is one election in which triangulation is a completely inappropriate and unnecessary strategy.
posted by stammer at 1:21 AM on May 18, 2007


For non-Australians.

John Howard is our conservative leader.

He has raised taxes and introduced gun laws while in office.

This is because we live 'downunder' and politics is reversed here.

We are planning on replacing him with a new leader who looks quite similar and is also a centrist. The new leader is called Kevin Rudd. Kevin Rudd is John Howard with more hair.

We are very excited.
posted by sien at 1:41 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, in New Zealand and Australia, red is associated with parties on the socialist end of the spectrum (even if they aren't proposing to nationalise the means of production and exchange any more) while blue is the colour of "true-blue" conservatism (even though they want to change the welfare system we've had since the 30's).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:50 AM on May 18, 2007


Wow. First time I've ever deliberately watched a bit of that show. It was hilariously blatant. Great post!
posted by web-goddess at 1:52 AM on May 18, 2007


Any less subtle would be if they stood in front of the camera with a sign saying "We are opposed to the Work Choices scheme".

And, jeebus, I had forgotten how much Australian soapies suck. It's like watching an 80's infomercial.
posted by liquorice at 1:55 AM on May 18, 2007


[Rudd's]opposition to WorkChoices has gone so soft that it looks set to completely evaporate by the time of the election

This maybe be pessimism talking, but I think it's easy to overestimate the opposition to WorkChoices. There's a huge number of Australians who own small businesses and WorkChoices seems to be really, really good for them, especially with the abolition of unfair dismissal laws and (in WA at least) there are a whole bunch of people who've become very, very rich as a result of the resources boom which has surged ahead with AWAs in place. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Howard or his heartless IR regime, but living in Perth and seeing people suddenly flooded with money (seriously, I know a house-painter who traded in his ute for a monstrous US-made pickup which cost 90,000 bucks) I can't help but feel that the government won't have to "re-sell" the package too hard. A lot of these suddenly-rich people are young, too - there's a good chance that all they've known for their entire adult lives is a Howard government AND uninterrupted prosperity; and all they've heard about life under Labor was "high interest rates, high unemployment, low-skilled workers earn low-paying jobs".
So, yeah, I'm pessimistic about the upcoming election, and feel genuinely sad for the workers whose lives are going to be fucked-over by WorkChoices.
posted by bunglin jones at 1:57 AM on May 18, 2007


Nice work sien...

dw: "So... you guys need web developers"?
posted by fullysic at 2:55 AM on May 18, 2007


[Rudd's]opposition to WorkChoices has gone so soft that it looks set to completely evaporate by the time of the election

This is what scares me. Rudd reminds me ever so slightly of Mark Latham.

I loved Latham when he was a shadow minister; he didn't pull any punches, he went on the attack, he made radical statements. He was clearly a nutter, but he was my nutter. When he ascended to the leadership of the Labor party, and the election loomed closer, he changed completely. Suddenly, you knew everything he said had first been past a focus group, and every policy statement was a response to some kind of private Labor party polling. It was all walking on egg shells, playing the numbers, struggling desperately not to upset anyone.

In the end, of course, that strategy failed completely, and Mark Latham is still considered a nutter.

Kevin Rudd, when he was a shadow minister, appeared a very smart, well-spoken politician. I wasn't his hugest fan, but I could see he was good at what he did. But, it seems, now he's leader of the opposition, he's heading down that same path of bollock-less, lowest-common-denominator, focus-group tested poli-speak. He doesn't seem sincere, and I can only imagine that that's because he's not saying what he thinks, he's saying what he's been told to say. And that's dangerous. Because the one thing Howard is good at is speaking for himself. I'm not saying Howard isn't poll driven - of course he is. But you get the impression John Howard reads the polls then decides himself how to tackle it, while over at the Labor party, some apparatik reads the polls, meeting are organised, the power-brokers and factional leaders are contacted, some speech-writers get together, catch phrases are tested...then somewhere down the line Kevin Rudd gets a piece of paper to read his comments off. And to be honest, the exact same thing has happened to Julia Gillard - another old favourite of mine who is now acting like someone's been putting Valium in her weeties.

But shit, maybe I'm cynical. The public seems to like Rudd, judging from the polls, so I might be imagining it all.

Howard is blue, right? Is he Labour?

I never could understand why Americans associate blue with the left and red with the right.

Red = Commie socialists
Blue = Blue blood old money

Easy to remember, really.
posted by Jimbob at 3:53 AM on May 18, 2007


That McLeod's Daughters clip is amazing, by the way. I was convinced there was going to be a "Spoken by XXX for the ACTU, Canberra" disclaimer at the end of it...
posted by Jimbob at 4:06 AM on May 18, 2007


I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

Why pay anything, much less give vacation time, to convicts?
posted by orthogonality at 4:08 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Interesting, Joe Hockey, quoted here:

he would have asked the Workplace Authority to swoop on Phil’s garage if the TV bad guy was a real employer. “Clearly the behaviour depicted is unlawful,” Mr Hockey said. “If it wasn’t fiction we’d be investigating.”

Can anyone verify whether that's true or not? The illegality of the boss' action, I mean. This article (from last month) sees Hockey saying something similar to what he's saying today, while Howard backs the bosses.
posted by bunglin jones at 4:22 AM on May 18, 2007


Shot on a rural property north of Adelaide, McLeod’s Daughters is produced with the assistance of the South Australian Film Corporation, a division of the State’s Labor Government.

LOL. That is drawing a very, very long bow. But shit, it's The West Australian, so what can you expect.

Regarding whether it's true or not; I've certainly heard that there's been a spate of people being fired then rehired under individual contracts. I also heard that Joe "Cuddly-Teddy-Bear" Hockey had gone after a pile of businesses for abusing some aspect of the new regulations, but I'm unsure if that's related. Hopefully this will be brought up in question time, and we can find out more.
posted by Jimbob at 4:31 AM on May 18, 2007


I love Hockey's continual claim that the ACTU have spent 100 million on their anti-workchoices campaign. Called to account today on ABC radio, he quibbed the question.

The bottom line is that the laws are manifestly unfair. The suppose that a non English speaking kitchen hand in a large hotel has the same negotiating power as say a senior java developer in a major IT firm.

Howard is a genuinely an evil little bastard, when a baby was abandoned by it mother outside a hospital in the depressed outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong, the rabidly right wing Murdoch Sydney Telegraph screamed the headline "HOW COULD SHE" - Howard attempted to put words into our mouths- That's what most Australians would thing. FUCK YOU YOU LITTLE ARSEHOLE- It's not what I think, I think how desperate that mum must be to have to do that. In fact, I'm going to post it.
posted by mattoxic at 5:31 AM on May 18, 2007


quibbed, sorry squibbed
posted by mattoxic at 5:31 AM on May 18, 2007


would thing= would think- Friday night beers and rage, sorry
posted by mattoxic at 5:32 AM on May 18, 2007


I know this is a link to a source that will be perceived as a bias point of view, but anyway - Single out employees, introducing poorer working conditions on to them one at a time. I think this is the crux of this legislation as portrayed in the McLeod's Daughters clip. A less compliant/pressured/fewer resources, employee will accept the conditions. As a result all employee conditions will, over time, be reduced.
As an aside, I'm happy to see that McGuire has resigned. It was a strange appointment and I think he has made the right decision. He's a good quiz competition host but he never struck me as the sort of person that could run a television station. That requires a level of nous that is beyond the ken of all but a select few.
posted by tellurian at 6:07 AM on May 18, 2007


Wait, he drives off in the car he was fixing? That seems rather strange...
posted by delmoi at 6:31 AM on May 18, 2007


Paid leave and hollidays in industrial nations Note that it's Japan with 10 days, not the US.
posted by delmoi at 6:35 AM on May 18, 2007


Australia, like Canada, is fundamentally too well governed. We haven't had a poor unstable government since Whitlam. And that debacle ended in 1975.

Workchoices sucks. We don't want or need American style labour relations.

Rudd will also pull us out of Iraq.

Actually, for non Australians this election is about as exciting as Australian politics gets - it should actually be close as opposed to most which are predictable.

Ozpolitics blog has the polls and the betting odds. It should go down to the wire.

Rudd should win though, people know all the fibs of the current crew and demand new deceptions.

Oh, BTW, we like hair....
posted by sien at 6:41 AM on May 18, 2007


The problem with the workchoices is that the conditions, which may look generous from a US viewpoint, are a reduction on current conditions, with no necessity for employers to offer a corresponding pay rise or other flexibility.
Also, new jobs need only offer the minimum.


Yeah, well, welcome to America. Only, no, since you have a national health care system, a solvent retirement system, and a dole that actually pays decently.

I know why this all sucks, but again, the best most Americans can do is get overtime after 40 hours (except if you're like me and considered "middle management" you don't).

I never could understand why Americans associate blue with the left and red with the right.

It's what the TV networks used for the colors of the parties on the big map. It's somewhat ironic considering that the current occupants of the White House have been acting like a Politburo the last seven years.
posted by dw at 7:29 AM on May 18, 2007


So... you guys need web developers?
You're welcome dw. Can you pass the test?
On Preview: Stay there and suffer in your jocks.
posted by tellurian at 7:40 AM on May 18, 2007


Howard was appointed Sheriff by George W. Bush, and that's all there is to it. The Australian people have no say in this matter.
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on May 18, 2007


You know, I just got back from an extended trip to Australia, where I saw plenty of local Aussi news.

It struck me then, when the central issue causing much hand-wringing, anxious arguments on the news and genuine political worry is frigging AWAs, your country has it pretty damn good indeed.

It made me feel good to be there. Lucky country.

(Mind you, I suspect people say the same thing about Canada.)
posted by generichuman at 2:54 PM on May 18, 2007


Based on the brief YouTube clip, I'm not so sure "McLeod's Daughters" is actually criticizing AWAs. For one thing, the clip seems to imply that AWAs actually benefit *both* employer and worker.

While AWAs allow employers more flexibility and provide less stability for workers, worker mobility (i.e., there are more jobs than workers) will keep the worst excesses of employers in check.

Are there a lot of jobs in Australia for auto mechanics and their receptionist girlfriends?

On the other hand, there are plenty of jobs at the moment for skilled IT, engineering and professional positions, segments of the labour market that don't really need to depend on labour laws to serve as a safety net.

In a highly competitive world, is it reasonable for workers in the semi-skilled, low value service sector to expect job security? If margins are tight, who can afford to pay the costs associated with that?

Wouldn't it be better to develop a highly educated workforce that can compete with (or provide value-added goods and services to) the world's emerging economies?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:03 PM on May 18, 2007


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