November 01, 2011

Horse 1242 - Telling the Government What It Should Do

The editorial in today's Daily Telegraph makes you wonder whether or not there are any copywriters working for them. One one page, they contradict themselves. After spending yesterday's editorial with the headline "Pathetic Excuses for Lack of Action" suggesting that the Government should have done something, in today's editorial it then suggests that it should do nothing... though not in as many words.

From yesterday's Daily Telegraph (31-10-2011):
The government had an obvious opportunity to powerfully address the crisis.

It could have invoked Section 431 of the Fair Work Act, forcing an end to industrial action. Instead, the government eventually took the softer option allowed under Fair Work provisions, which is why the various parties involved are now arguing in Melbourne while jets remain immobile.

Let's be specific about both the Daily Telegraph's article and the wording of Section 431 of the Fair Work Act. Section 431 states that:
"The Minister may make a declaration, in writing, terminating protected industrial action..."

Take notes of the words "could have" and "may". That means that the Minister isn't forced to do anything; it isn't necessarily incumbent or obligatory that the Minister actually do anything at all.

If we then look at today's editorial (01-11-11), we find two distinct parts:

This is to do with Qantas:
All Australians are left wondering, then, why an intervention wasn't made earlier. Meanwhile, Qantas shares are up and Joyce has won an important battle.

This is to do with the sale of the remaining publicly-owned NSW electricity generation companies:

In truth, we have several decades of evidence from Australia and around the world that government does not belong in the business of electricity supply or, more generally, in business at all.
Governments by their nature are neither flexible enough nor responsive enough to consumer demands to run what should be private business pursuits, kept lean and economical by market imperatives and profit motives.
Defenders of government ownership are overwhelmingly those with vested ideological or party political interests.

Considering that Alan Joyce is the CEO of Qantas and is paid $5 million to act as the responsible officer, shouldn't the anger by the Daily Telegraph be directed at him, or do they now suggest that he isn't responsible? If "running enterprises is best left to private investment" then do they now suggest that this wasn't the result of private investment running the enterprise?
Maybe the Daily Telegraph has forgotten that Qantas which used to be a Government-owned airline, was floated in 1993 and finally completely privatised in 1995. Doesn't that suggest that the then Keating Government acted in accordance with what the Daily Telegraph wants?
Basically you can't cry that government generally should play a minimal role in the economy and then cry foul when it does precisely that. Honestly, if the Daily Telegraph or News Ltd thinks it could do a better job, then why has it never decided to run for office?

If government does not "belong in business at all" according to the Daily Telegraph, then why do they then think that the Federal Government should have intevened in what is a dispute in a private corporation? If Qantas in fact a "private business pursuit" then why pray tell, should the Minister have invoked his Section 431 powers if it's not obligatory to do so?

There is the rather annoying facet to all of this, that if this dispute had taken place prior to 1993, then the CEO would not have been in a position to order a shutdown of the airline at all.
Secondly, if the demand for profit motive and market imperatives is so strong, then shouldn't a barely profitable international air-carrier like Qantas, simply just cut all of its overseas operations tommorrow? This air of mystique about it being a so-called "national carrier" is nonsense. Alan Joyce as the responsible officer took a responsible decision in line with that demand for profit motive. If almost 70,000 people happened to get stranded because of that decision, then they should complain to Qantas and the Unions which caused the mess, not the government. Alan Joyce made the decision, blame him.

I suppose that the Daily Telegraph is entitled to its opinions however self-contradicting they appear to be but I'd like to point out the utter cowardice of hiding behind an editorial without signing a name to it. Unlike myself who doesn't hide behind the cloak of a masthead (and am fairly transparent in my identity), the Daily Telegraph doesn't attribute its articles to any particular writer. I assume therefore that just like Alan Joyce is the CEO if Qantas, that the responsible officer at the Daily Telegraph must be the Chief Editor, Paul Whittaker. Perhaps he'd like to explain the apparant cowardice of the newspaper. Or maybe he thinks that that should be the reponsibility of Stephen Conroy.

Certainly the Opinion Page Editor for The Australian, Rebecca Weisser, the Daily Telegraph's stablemate seems to disagree with the point of view taken by the Daily Telegraph:
Alan Joyce had a choice. He either had to face death by a thousand cuts with low-level strikes, threats of strikes, threats of go-slow, leaking to the media, all sorts of things we’ve seen over the past few weeks and months have been very damaging to Qantas and he could either put up with this and for it to go on and on or he could bring it to a head.
People who work in the private sector and people who do the sorts of jobs that Alan Joyce is doing, I think it’s an extremely tough job and I think he would have earned every cent of his pay managing this deal.

Basically she's agreed with my conceit that Alan Joyce as the responsible officer, made a decision in that position; in fact she's even suggested that he has earnt the right to be paid as much as is because of it. I also note that in today's Australian the Political Editor, Denis Shanahan seems to tow the line drawn by the Daily Telegraph. Either this is collective hypocrisy on the part of News Ltd generally or willful ignorance on the part of the Editorial team at the Australian (seemingly forgetting what their Opinion Page Editor said less than 18 hours ago) but either way, on one hand they appear to be trying to tell the Government what to do and then in the same breath tell them not to do it.


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