I’ve been a member of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)
for most of the past 16 years and value its Friday newsletter, career development seminars,
campaigning for press freedom and the excellent job it does running the
Walkley Awards. I’ve even just rolled over $28,000 in News Ltd
superannuation to the affiliated Journalists Union Superannuation Trust (JUST).

Given the sensitive political role of journalists, the MEAA wisely
declines to donate to the ALP like most other unions. However, this
week a letter has arrived
informing members there will be levy to contribute to the ACTU’s
campaign against WorkChoices.

This is just getting too political. I actually support more labour
market deregulation because, even after WorkChoices, our system is
still full of rigidities that constrain Australian business more than
most of our competitor countries.

It also creates a major conflict of interest for MEAA members who have
to cover the industrial relations debate that will probably be the most
important issue at next year’s federal election. These journalists should not be funding a blatantly political campaign.

Mind you, there’s plenty of conflicts of interest amongst media
companies as well. Mark Latham wrote this in his diary after a cosy
dinner at Cavan with Lachlan Murdoch and News Ltd CEO John Hartigan on
11 March 2004:

Two main political issues: AWAs and Foxtel. Murdoch’s
company has the highest number of AWAs in the country; all their
journalists are on individual contracts. Hartigan pressed hard for me
to drop our policy dedicated to their abolition, but I told him there
was no chance of that.

Latham was never going to get support from the Murdoch press because of
industrial relations, Iraq and the US alliance. Beazley can potentially
neutralise the last two, but his IR policy will guarantee opposition
from the Murdoch press, which has a massive conflict that thoroughly
discredits any editorial stand they take.

Where’s the disclosure at the bottom of every IR story: “News Ltd
employs more people on AWAs than any other Australian employer”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey