Monthly Archives: September 2011

Shortcut to flexibility

It’s a pity The Australian seems to have have missed the story everyone else is covering about Qantas’s involvement in drafting union-banning laws for the Fiji government, as it suggests a shortcut to the “labour market flexibility” sought by Qantas and favoured by The Australian’s commentariat: just install a military dictatorship.

Plot lost

In recent weeks, The Australian has unsurprisingly resisted any scrutiny of media monopolies as an assault on press freedom. But now they suggest a government clampdown on the ABC because – wait for it – one of its drama series has flopped (“Sticking to the script at Aunty”, 28/9). In calling for the ABC to “stick to the script”, I fear The Australian has lost the plot.

Once was warrior

Janet Albrechtsen laments the Liberal Party’s abandonment of compulsory individual contracts as a retreat from a “philosophical battle” (“Tony Abbott, a warrior is not afraid to come out fighting”, The Australian, 28/9). She needs to accept that this battle is lost: the Liberals have finally been “dragged to the centre” by the people’s wisdom. Voters have already rejected the absurd notion that an individual can negotiate on an equal footing with a corporation. Had it persisted with this extreme ideology, the Liberal Party, not Labor, would have found itself “on the wrong side of history”.

More poison is the antidote

In defence of free-market capitalism, The Australian contends that European social democracies are slow to recover from the GFC because they have “interventionist” governments, unlike the US, “where open markets have assisted stability”. (“Capitalism to save social democrats from debt trap”, 25/9). This conveniently glosses over the fact that these very US markets triggered the crisis in the first place. The related suggestion that Australia survived not because of, but in spite of an “ill-considered” and “over-egged” stimulus, defies the opinions of most economists.

To maintain the view that economic problems are solved by doing nothing – in the face of massive, sustained evidence to the contrary – The Australian makes the mystical “invisible hand” into an irrefutable hypothesis: the market unerringly seeks efficiency, where efficiency is defined as whatever the market seeks, and can only fail because of interference, where interference is defined as whatever causes the market to fail.

This recursive logic leads to the prescription of more poison as the antidote.

Can dish it but not take it

Janet Albrechtsen’s defence of press freedom (“The friction of freedom comes with open debate”, The Australian, 22/9) would be quite apposite if the press inquiry proposed to restrict content, or even bias. As it does not, her portrayal of News Ltd, which controls 70% of this country’s press, as a brave freedom-fighter besieged by an oppressive “orthodoxy” is more than faintly ridiculous.

Even sillier is her description of various public statements criticising News Ltd as showing “disregard for open debate” and “totalitarianism”, and even as “fascist”, as if merely criticising the press is to muzzle it. Surely she is aware such statements are just more free speech, or is it just that she can dish but not take it?

Jihad against Manne

The Australian appears determined to bury Robert Manne’s criticisms of it by sheer quantity of verbiage, but not one of the dozens of defensive and often personally abusive editorials, opinion pieces, cartoons and hand-picked letters address the key question: why the only national daily proclaims itself a “a free market of ideas” yet overwhelmingly expresses and supports views, and hires writers, from the centre-right and rightward from there. This seems to be the only question they won’t answer, and accusing the questioner of censorship is just more evasion. Continue reading