It is inconceivable that former NSW Labor premiers Neville Wran, Barrie Unsworth or Bob Carr would write for a “scab” newspaper produced by non-unionised editorial labor.

Throughout their political careers, it was an article of faith that you didn’t cross picket lines and you didn’t contribute articles to “scab” papers when journos or printers were on strike. It was the approach adopted by all the state’s Labor premiers dating back to the first Labor premier, Jim McGowen (1910-1913).

But this same political principle hasn’t been embraced by the current NSW Premier Morris Iemma, the 14th Labor man to hold the premiership.

He contributed a by-line article to the the weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald while journalists were on a picket line striking to protect hundreds of jobs and quality journalism.

The timing of Iemma’s article couldn’t have been more inflammatory. His article appeared in the edition from which popular columnist Mike Carlton was axed because he refused to be a strike-breaker.

Carlton’s stand was in sharp contrast to Iemma’s, whose “Labor” premiership is looking increasingly threadbare.

Without any trace of irony, Iemma’s article was headlined: “How the power of one treacherous leader sold out the people of NSW.”

Some union activists are so affronted they are taking Iemma’s own “treachery” to the next meeting of Unions NSW to demand that he be censured. Left-wing backbenchers have been embarrassed and they are being bombarded with requests to have the premier’s conduct brought before the next meeting of Caucus.

If the decision to write for the “scab” Herald was the brainchild of his new media team — all from Channel Nine’s Sydney news room — then they have made a foolish and amateurish mistake. It won’t endear him to working journalists whether they are from Fairfax or News Ltd, or from print, TV or radio.

In Carlton’s enforced absence, his space in the paper was occupied by the right-wing burblings of Miranda Devine — which drew dozens of enraged emails from formerly loyal readers — while in Monday’s scab edition columnist Paul Sheehan delivered yet another reactionary musing of typical incoherence.

Crikey also heard that Treasurer Michael Costa’s staff had contributed material used in the last Friday’s editorial, a rousing endorsement of power privatisation and a bucket job on Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell for refusing to support the Labor government’s ever-changing and farcical sell-off plans.

SMH editor Alan Oakley replied to our request for a comment saying:

“Of all the crap Crikey writes about Fairfax, that’s about the dumbest suggestion so far. Get real.”

I think that’s a “No”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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