Behind the blather


The headline that wasn't (1)

"Inflation fears as profit growth rises". You didn't miss this headline on an article in a recent Australian Financial Review — though you may have read the actual article it should have been the headline of. In the article, the National Australia Bank's chief economist, Alan Oster, explained that the Australian economy is bowling along so strongly that companies producing inputs for other companies have been increasing prices with impunity.

The headline you could have read was "Inflation fears as wages growth rises" in the November 16 AFR, in which the paper sweated over the news that average weekly earnings had increased 1% in the three months to August, taking annual wages growth to 4.9%.

But buried away in the article was this small point: "The Australian Bureau of Statistics said much of the spike in private sector incomes was due to the effect of Telstra's privatisation — which moved well-paid public sector employees to the private sector payroll — and economists said the overall picture suggested wages growth remained contained."

Another headline you missed: "Telstra privatisation fuels inflation fears".

The headline that wasn't (2)

"Gillard to crack down on CEO pattern bargaining". A quote from the chairman of a big Australian corporation (AFR, November 14): "There is a remuneration club and if you're not careful you go around the circle of people giving advice to other organisations, then feed in increases that are pending in one organisation and flowing to another. You get on a circle that is pretty hard to break."

But the Rudd-Gillard Labor leadership has an excuse: the executives in question are engaged in unwitting or innocent pattern bargaining, while union "thugs" have been conscious and malicious exponents of comparative wage justice. (Note: being a party to executive pattern bargaining is no barrier to membership of the Australian Labor Party.)

The headline that wasn't (3)

"Lock them up and throw away the key!" This Daily Telegraph-style front-page screamer was inexplicably missing from accounts of a recent decision of NSW Supreme Court judge Michael Adams. Adams described the parties before him in these words: "I am satisfied that X and Y committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law and also an offence under section 86 of the Crimes Act 1900. It follows, a fortiori, that they committed the tort of false imprisonment. Their conduct was grossly improper and constituted an unjustified and unlawful interference with the personal liberty of Z."

Who were the apparently guilty parties? "Youths of Middle-Eastern appearance"? Members of an "Asian crime syndicate"? No the anti-social elements in question were none other than "B15" and "B16" — not rejects from Bananas in Pyjamas but ASIO agents who intimidated, coerced and illegally detained Sydney medical student Izhar ul-Haque in November 2003. Ul-Haque was kept on remand for several months in the maximum security unit at Goulburn Jail.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock sniffed at the NSW judge's harsh words, saying: "If there is to be any judgements drawn about the conduct of others in relation to these proceedings, it should come though the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security." Another headline you missed: "Ruddock: what division of powers?"

Commonwealth-state relations withstand election stress

Readers will be relieved to know that in a confusing election in which John Howard parades as the "full employment" prime minister and Kevin Rudd as the defender of fiscal stringency against Howard's reckless spending spree, bipartisan Commonwealth-state relations are still holding up. The federal and the NSW governments will each give the Australian Jockey Club $20 million as compensation for the use of Randwick racecourse for next year's Catholic World Youth Day, to be graced by the Pope.

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