Still waiting for the invasion of the scary union overlords
Can anyone help me out? I’m looking for the fat bloke in braces who was meant to be running the country after Labor got elected.
Surely you’ve seen him, the Union Boss who was meant to be terrorising the nation’s taffeta dress shops. Maybe he is hiding in an ante-room off the PM’s office.
There’s nothing like a healthy dose of reality to blunt most political scare campaigns, but even by the Punch’s Scary Creatures Benchmark (PSCB*), the Liberals effort at the least election was up the with the best of them.
First a little modern history: the Union Bosses campaign was constructed through polling conducted by Lib spin-meister’s Crosby-Textor to give the business community something to run in support of WorkChoices.
Supporting WorkChoices was a little bit like endorsing childhood cancer, so instead the plan was to attack the ‘Union bosses’ who represented the people who would benefit from the laws being repealed. The employers unveiled a series of comical TV and newspaper ads, featuring surly fat men walking into dress shops and sneering.
The employer campaign was closely aligned with the Liberal Party’s political strategy (penned by the same masterminds), which had determined that monstering unions was the only way that could bring their shaky base back into the fold.
The Coalition front-bench invoked the mantra of ‘Union Bosses’, Labor figures like Julia Gillard were targeted for their union background and a vaguely Cold War-style frenzy was whipped up about a Left-ist takeover of Australia.
The mainstream media was doing their part too – with a series of front-page stories placed by government sources designed to ‘prove’ the assertion of a pending workers revolution.
First there was Dean Mighell caught on tape swearing and talking up a pay rise, then there was Joe McDonald videoed throwing his weight around on an unsafe building sites; then there was the then Unions NSW secretary John Robertson secretly recorded having a spray at a public meeting,
At this point the ALP weighed in and gave the scare campaign further credence – Kevin Rudd demanding the resignation of Mighell from the Party, the expulsion of MacDonald and a verbal bitch-slap of Robbo. It sent the Libs the message ‘I’m scared’ – and gave them reason to keep saying boo!
The only people who didn’t buy the scare campaign were the general public. Monitoring to their reaction to the attack during the campaign, we found most voters just didn’t believe unions carried that sort of weight anymore. That said, the Liberal heartland did return in the last weeks of the campaign; but in terms of saving the government, it went the way of most scare campaigns.
Now to the Punch’s Scary Creatures Benchmark (PSCB)* :
Union Bosses met the following criteria:
- it was promoted by multiple sources;
- the media gave it credence
- and the target gave it credibility.
On the downside: the public didn’t buy it
All things considered I’d give it a Rating of 6.5
So how does it rate against other great Scare Campaigns?
PSCB = 10 - Reds under the Beds: (Liberals 1954) – Menzies masterful manipulation of anti-Communism fear, saw the expoulsion of the Petrovs and links between the Soviet Embassy and Labor staffers, rendering Doc Evatt political road-kill. Created a political schism that tiook another 18 years to heal.
PSCB = 3 - Put Your Money Under the Beds: (Liberals 18983) – Malcolm Fraser tried to hold on to power by involving the Whitlam era and warning that national savings would be put at risk under Labor. Hawke’s response – you can’t put your money under the bed because there are too many Commies there.
PSCB = 2.5 - The Answer is Liberal (Liberals 1990) – the only scare campaign that a political party has run against itself. Gave rise to the legendary response; ‘Then it must have been a bloody silly question’
PSCB = Zero - A Vote for John Howard is a Vote for Peter Costello – (Labor 2001 and 2004) – never credible, was never going to happen.
PSCB= 9.5 - We decide Who Comes into This Country (Liberals 2001) – perfect storm of economic insecurity, refugees and September 11
PSCB = 8.0 - GST 1: Labor 1993 – Liberals will introduce a GST – worked – even though it had been a Keating policy.
PSCB = 3.5 - GST 2: Labor 1998 – Liberals will introduce a GST – didn’t work – even though they did. Proof that a scare can work only once,.
PSCB = 8.5 - L-Plate Latham: (Liberals 2004) – The Government implied Labor was led by a mad man who could not be trusted with running the country. Enough said, really.
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