Blog - Qantas flies, government crashes
Posted on Friday, 4 November 2011
The Gillard government can’t help picking fights with people. It’s at war with large sections of the public and with most of manufacturing industry over the carbon tax. It’s still fighting the miners over the mining tax.
Community clubs are furious about mandatory pre-commitment to play poker machines. And parts of the Labor Party are in revolt over the Malaysian people swap.
This week the government virtually declared war on Qantas for taking on the unions.
It attacked the Murdoch Press as a “threat to democracy” for a story about Kevin Rudd’s looming leadership challenge. And it said that the Economist’s Business Intelligence Unit “wasn’t worth the paper it’s written on” for criticising the National Broadband Network.
This government can’t help itself. It tries to bully everyone and everything that gets in its way – except the Greens who set the government’s agenda and the union officials who choose the Labor Party’s leader.
For months, Qantas had been subject to the disruption from unions concerned about the company’s attempts to stay competitive. Before last Saturday, more than a thousand flights had been cancelled or seriously delayed by industrial action that the company said was costing it $15 million a week.
After shareholders had backed management at the AGM last week, three unions threatened the company with a “slow bake” that would bleed the company without resolving disputes over manning and restructuring. Grounding the entire airline was a drastic response but at least it promised to bring the disputes to a head and have them resolved by the industrial umpire.
The government could have prevented the grounding had it chosen to use the power available to it under section 431 of the Fair Work Act. Because governments have a responsibility to keep essential services operating, this is what the Coalition would have done. Instead, the Gillard government supported the company’s bid to terminate the dispute – but only in an application to the industrial umpire which took 24 hours to hear. Meanwhile, the travelling public suffered 48 hours of airport chaos that could have been prevented.
Afterwards, the government attacked the company as “extreme”. Minister Simon Crean even referred to “scab” workers and falsely accused the company of sacking people.
It’s no way to run a country but it’s typical of the Gillard government: it was warned; it did nothing; then it mucked things up. Whether it’s border protection, live cattle or Qantas, that’s the way this government conducts itself. Even Kevin “pink batts” Rudd thinks he could do a better job than the current Prime Minister and, on form, he probably would.
4 November 2011