Delegitimising unions:

Michael Moy writes: Re. “Delegitimising unions in the great game of labour v capital” (yesterday, item 1). In Bernard Keane’s article, he stated:

“And the logic of Qantas’s actions on the weekend was to break free of the normal industrial dispute provisions under which it was operating, in which unions could continue to take wholly legal industrial action which (as Fair Work Australia found on Sunday night) did not pose a significant threat to Qantas.”

Can you please let me know where in the decision Fair Work Australia found that the unions’ industrial action did not pose a significant threat to Qantas? On my reading of the decision, the Full Bench said nothing of the sort.

In fact it said:

“[7] Qantas produced material indicating that the protected action taken by the unions prior to 29 October had affected 70,000 passengers, led to the cancellation of 600 flights, the grounding of 7 aircraft, $70 million in damage. That protected action was associated with significant reductions in forward bookings and decline in market share.”

How are significant reductions in forward booking and decline in market share not a significant threat to Qantas?

What FWA did find was that:

“[10] It is unlikely that the protected industrial action taken by the three unions, even taken together, is threatening to cause significant damage to the tourism and air transport industries. The response industrial action of which Qantas has given notice, if taken, threatens to cause significant damage to the tourism and air transport industries and indirectly to industry generally because of the effect on consumers of air passenger and cargo services.”

If Keane is unable to point out where FWA decided that the unions’ industrial action did not pose a significant threat to Qantas, is he likely to correct this statement?

Martin Gordon writes: It’s a little while since I did labour market economics at uni but it’s not long before the old class war rhetoric and so on starts to fly with Bernard Keane and the predictable union line that predominates that faculty.

I think it’s a tad simplistic to claim business is pursuing its own interests alone, and unions don’t. In the case of the Qantas dispute, one union leader’s campaign for the ALP presidency seems to be based on a good bit of grandstanding (at his members’ expense) in that dispute.

The ACTU presentation of profit and wages share is a most unusual way of representing this information. Unions are always good at choosing a good base year (stats 101) in 1985 when profit shares were down and in a recovery from a recession, and that tanked during the next recession (that recession we had to have apparently). The volatility of profits and the unusual presentation does not do justice to anyone; the more traditional presentation of the proper shares on the same scale eliminates this impression of a “Himalayan” rise in profits.

Part of the change of shares of the economy also relates to the growth of self employment and comparative decline of the wages and salary sector. Phil Ruthven from Ibis World has some great stats on that, and without all the phony class war posturing Bernard and others have embarked on.

As for Qantas, business is not the ogre it is made out to be. If you wanted Qantas to go out of business, the union script to date would deliver that outcome within a few years. The shows of union solidarity and so on are painful posturing, but completely at odds with an open competitive economy and a market share that sees only 20% of Australian fly Qantas internationally. I am surprised it is that high, but if the unions keep at it they might get that down to zero, which would be just fabulous! Not to mention job destroying. The cluelessness of these people is disturbing.

I have the misfortune of having the CPSU gum up wage settlements with the Gillard government, so far no increase and for colleagues with retirement within a few years a lifetime hit on their super pensions. The CPSU has got us just where the government wants us. Yes, you read that correctly, the government must be laughing all the way to the next budget. They will get a surplus sooner than they think with the CPSU helping them.

Barry Donovan writes: Bernard Keane does us a service when placing the Qantas dispute in the broader context of relating executive package increases to real wage increases over recent years. More importantly, in the case of Qantas, these wage increases, such as they are in the 21st century, relate to Qantas staff, not to any union spokespersons who are quoted regularly and often criticised as representing “the unions”.

Australian unions again in this case are made up of individual workers (and their families relying on that income) who are legitimately supporting their claims for a better standard of living in 2011-2012.

This has flowed on continually since the 1970s and 1980s when the Hawke government and major unions and employers worked through a successful industrial “Accord” and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission when necessary to organise a proper national economy for all parties.

The weekend move by Qantas management to return industrial relations to the dark ages and happily abandon thousands of Qantas customers around the world (we apologise for any inconvenience, ha ha) is the ultimate cynical ploy. It might have worked for Rio Tinto against a bunch of isolated mining workers in the back of WA, but it is morally and economically irresponsible to use such methods today against the nation.

Greg Sheridan:

L M McIntire writes: Re. “Sheridan flouts Press Council directive on ‘illegal’ asylum seekers” (yesterday, item 16). In getting stuck into Greg Sheridan, Andrew Crook writes:

“And as activists have repeatedly pointed out, under the UN Refugee Convention — to which Australia is a signatory — a person is lawfully able to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents”.

Although activists indeed do repeatedly point this out, they are incorrect.  Article 31 of the convention states:

“Article 31. — Refugees unlawfully in the country of refuge 1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorisation, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

The fact that the convention demands that Australia impose no penalties on asylum seekers who enter Australia without authority (provided they present themselves to authorities without delay) and that they treat them as other asylum seekers, does not make their entry to Australia lawful. The convention specifically accepts that such entry may be illegal.

Terry J Mills writes: It’s a pedantic point but Sheridan is probably correct in terming unauthorised entrants (those without entry permits) as illegal immigrants until such time as they arrive within an Australian jurisdiction and make a claim for asylum based on a fear of persecution on religious, race, social or political beliefs; not a fear of persecution in Indonesia obviously but in their country of origin. Once the claim for asylum is made, this then triggers the UNHCR refugee process .

This most recent tragic sinking of a boat within Indonesian waters should concentrate our minds on the clear need to dismantle the people smuggling business, with the co-operation of the Indonesian government and reconsider our own responses particularly the opposition’s “tow back” policy that, had it been activated, could have led to a situation where a boat, after entering Australian waters, was then towed back into Indonesian waters and sinks with loss of life without the passengers ever having had the opportunity to make an asylum claim.


Adam Suckling, Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs, Foxtel, writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (Tuesday item 19). Does anyone at Crikey actually read Glenn Dyer?

Day after day, under the heading “Pay TV”, Dyer writes about the viewing shares of digital channels on Seven, Nine, Ten, the ABC and SBS. Glenn, how long have these channels been Pay TV?

Take Tuesday’s Dyer insight for example:

“Pay TV: Nine (3 channels) won with a share of 25.4% from Seven (3) on 24.3%, the ABC (4) was third with 16.2%, Pay TV was on 14.2% for its 200 plus channels. Ten (3) was 5th with 14.0% and SBS (2) was on 3.3%. The 15 FTA channels had a viewing share last night of 85.8%. The 10 digital channels had a share of 18.9% and the five main channels had a share of 63.1%.”

Then Dyer adds to his surreal paradigm by listing the “Five Most Watched Pay TV Channels“: Fox8, Sky News, TV1, UKTV, Lifestyle. Earth to Glenn – where did Seven, Nine, Ten and the ABC disappear to?

If there are any reader’s left who can work out what’s going on in Glenn’s World, the test just gets harder because he cherry picks the day-parts he writes about and mixes them up with no consistency. And he mixes up market shares from metropolitan areas, regional areas, and combinations of the two, without consistency. Cherries, apples, oranges — it’ all fruit to Glenn. Some people like to compare an apple with an apple.

Dyer acknowledges he sources: “OzTAM, TV Networks Reports”. Those “TV Networks” appear to be the FTA’s. And they report a mixture of day-parts including 1800-2230, or 1800-2400 or 0600-2400 or 0200-0200, depending on what suits them.

For clarity, readers would benefit from one standard measure that does not exclude viewing at specific parts of the day. OzTAM provides a robust 24/7 audience measurement service that should be fully utilized to understand the complete TV viewing picture.

Finally, Dyer’s blizzard of confusing “facts” and incomprehensibly organized data fails to illuminate one of the big trends in TV viewing – people in subscription television homes spend much more time watching our service than all the free to air channels combined.  Figures*: 55.7% of TV viewing time watching subscription television, 44.3% watching free to air channels (YTD) nationally. Dyer also misses that FOXTEL is the most watched networks overall (i.e. over 24 hours). Figures FOXTEL 22.8%, Seven 22.0%, Nine 20.0%, Ten 16.1%, ABC 13.3%, SBS 3.2%.

Surely Crikey readers deserve better analysis. A good start would be for Dyer to understand the difference between Pay TV and free-to-air TV.

*Sources: OzTAM. National STV homes. Weeks 1-43, 2011. Total People. 0200-0200. Consolidated data.  OzTAM.  All Metro homes. 5 City Metro. Weeks 1-43, 2011. Total People. 0200-0200. Consolidated data.

Crikey writes: The Pay TV figures included in Glenn Dyer’s TV ratings each day are a comparison for total audience share (hence why FTA stations are included against the total Pay TV audience).