The Tony Abbott “Winston Churchill” speech leaked to The Oz yesterday has been posted on the Liberal website, and apart from the predictable “bring it on” rhetoric over Labor’s ETS big new tax class redistribution mechanism, it also contains some curious observations on industrial relations. Tony, you see, wants to avoid being cast as an ideological warrior from birth, so he dredges up supposed evidence of previous dalliances with the other side of politics. Chief among these is his apparent decision to “move a motion” to support a strike at The Bulletin when he was a lowly hack eking out a living covering national affairs in the 1980s. The neoliberal God of unintended consequences quickly wrought vengeance:

As a journalist at The Bulletin, I once moved the strike resolution after the photographic department had been sacked at a moment’s notice. Little did I realise, back then, that we would do a full week’s work in half the time for half the pay and that most of [sic] former staff photographers would end up earning much more as freelancers.

Half the time for half the pay? Um, isn’t industrial action meant to force the employer, using a range of punitive tactics, to negotiate for better wages and conditions rather than punish the staff? Some “strike”.

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“Tony was clearly not thinking strategically when came to taking industrial action”, Jonathan Este from Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance told Crikey. According to Este, a more effective tactic on a weekly magazine would be to walk out two days before deadline, leaving management to pick up the slack — an unacceptable state of affairs for suits unaccustomed to The Bully’s weekly scramble. Last year, Sydney Morning Herald management lasted only a few days writing briefs and sourcing wire copy before the professionals were back on deck under better terms.

Under Abbott’s scenario either the Australian Journalists Association was asleep at the wheel, or the staff were pointlessly punishing themselves for zero industrial gain. Then again, maybe Tony just felt an overwhelming need to martyr himself before a higher power in Kerry Packer.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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