By Dick Nichols
SYDNEY — Alan Jones, Sydney radio 2UE's right-wing breakfast "shock jock", re-entered old territory recently when he commented on the Maritime Union of Australia. Jones, who made daily attacks on the MUA during its dispute with Patrick Stevedores last year, praised the union's national secretary, John Coombs.
Commenting on the possibility of Central NSW deputy branch secretary Jim Donovan contesting the forthcoming federal MUA poll, Jones said: "I have had plenty of battles in my day with John Coombs. But, I have got to tell you this, in the difficult-to-control world of maritime unions, John Coombs by comparison with the others is an absolute moderate.
"While I have been critical of [Coombs' leadership] on more than one occasion, it is a far cry ... from the kind of leadership we would get under a Jim Donovan."
Jones' remarks were sparked by an article in the March 1 Australian Financial Review in which Donovan said his decision to stand for a federal position would be determined by the tickets that nominate "and try to get on the bandwagon of my decision to go national". Donovan is reported as saying he didn't want "extreme left-wing groupings" to profit from his nomination — most likely a reference to the Western Australian MUA Rank and File group, which is running a strong local campaign.
An unnamed "senior union official" told the Financial Review that a Donovan campaign "could be a shit-fight. He has been tapping into dissatisfaction by spreading the bullshit line that John Coombs sold out the workers on the Patrick deal when it was the best possible agreement we could have got."
Jones wasted his creative juices on his anti-Donovan diatribe. On March 3, Donovan indicated "with profound regret" that he would not contest any position in the forthcoming poll. He denied he had "been pressured by various political groups".
On March 5, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Donovan had again said he didn't want his candidacy to give succour to the "extreme" left. He stated that he thought Coombs should be unopposed as MUA national secretary.