Rethinking Cosgrove

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Keane: Cosgrove a predictable choice with few question marks” (yesterday). Bernard Keane claims that “Peter Cosgrove will likely do a reasonable job as governor-general. The main prerequisites for the position are community respect, an unblemished past and a small-p political sensibility”. Keane may be a republican like me, but he makes a major mistake in claiming that all the governor-general has to have are the qualities he listed.

The governor-general is the head of state in the absence of the Queen, the commander-in chief of the armed forces and finally can rule Australia, with or without the Parliament, if he or she so desired. The governor-general has three key roles: constitutional referee, constitutional auditor and may exercise the reserve powers, with or without advice. A bit more of a job that Keane thinks it is and really should go to a retired High Court judge. Keane should not delight in showing off his complete and utter ignorance of the constitution.

John Richardson writes: So, it seems that Bernard Keane has joined with every other commentator and journalist in Australia in choosing to tread lightly when dealing with the announcement that General Peter Cosgrove is to be appointed as our next governor-general.

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In fact, apart from Keane’s cautious references to the vice-regal appointee’s performance as a member of the Qantas board and his possible guilt by association as a former commandant of Duntroon, the darkest suggestion that Keane can come up with is that Cosgrove’s appointment just might be evidence that the Anglo-Celtic old boys’ club is truly alive and well in the Antipodes.

It’s almost as though Australians have become afraid to say anything negative about anything anymore for fear of being condemned by the mad monk and his merry men as being “politically incorrect”.

Even John Howard is out of the cupboard: large as life, but still with neglected teeth. It’s like old home week. We’ve even seen cameo appearances from Kevin Andrews and Philip Ruddock on the domestic stage, while old fishnets, Alexander Downer, follows in his father’s footsteps as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

So, at the risk of disturbing the growing sense of deja vu that seems to be overtaking everyone, I just have to take a shot at our most popular military hero and latest tall poppy.

Notwithstanding that Keane has all but anointed Cosgrove as our latest saint, I for one am still waiting for the General to deal with unresolved allegations of torture and possible murder by members of the Australian Army serving in East Timor in 1999, when he was commander of the Interfet force.

It’s not all about the unions

Martin Gordon writes:  Re. “Crikey says: no facts, just ideology, from Abetz” (yesterday). Eric Abetz is probably an easy target, but everyone does their spin, even Crikey. Vested interests like the unions and Labor Party and business argue their cases. What’s new?

It’s a few years since I did labour market economics (and be dragooned into financing some knucklehead union officials), but economic factors are a major driver of productivity, strikes, wages growth, etc. The economic boom of the 1960s and ’70s explains a lot of the wages growth of the era, not the conciliation and arbitration system of the era, which Keating recognised was holding Australia back, and over decades saw this slow but steady decline in our economic potential relative to other nations in the developed world.

Just as labour productivity will be rising in the economic recovery from this recession, it would have fallen during the recession. This will mean that firms will hold back on hiring again until they are sure the recovery is solid. Strikes are unusually low, but the overall economic climate would be a major factor in that, not the Fair Work Act.

Some years back I wrote of the Fair Work Act been a sort of WorkChoices lite. Much of the institutional arraignments have carried over. The main changes related to union officials and their power, rather than employees. A good case in point been Craig Thomson. The ALP ran an adept marketing campaign in 2007, while Howard made a blunder that mobilised the ALP and unions.

The problem with the Fair Work Act is that it is a sop to the unions not a real benefit to employees. Something that will become more obvious as the stench of corruption around the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union becomes more pungent. Perhaps that will give Abetz some good material to work with, and Crikey cause to pause.