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With the establishment by the Government of a media inquiry, the role of the media in society seems likely to receive attention. Of some interest will be whether an attempt is made to distinguish between “reports” and “critical analysis”. Some claim that the latter should be confined to “editorials” or specifically identified “commentaries” (such as on Opinion pages) and that “reports” should take a neutral attitude to the wrongs and rights of particular events or government policies.

But the reality is that the extent of reporting can itself play an important role in influencing community attitudes. In my view there are two areas where this is (currently) of considerable importance viz the relative failure of the media to report critical analyses by others of the dangerous warming thesis in climate change and of the threat to economic and social standards when a union movement is given a quasi-monopoly role in determining or heavily influencing workplace relationships. It is abominable that Parliament has given to a tribunal whose members are heavily unionised a piece of legislation that is written in such general terms that it can “legitimately” be interpreted as the tribunal determines. It is astonishing that the Opposition did not oppose the passage of the legislation.

As to the Fair Work Arrangements, the business community is at last recognising that there is a serious problem with the arrangements and some elements in the media are also touching the edges there. The exposure of what has obviously been rorting in parts of the Health Services union has also brought other elements of the media into the debate.

But there is a long way to go before the eyes of the general public are fully opened and before the media seeks root and branch reform, not simply amendments to the legislation. It appears that such action will be necessary to move either of the two major political parties in Canberra. It will be recalled, for example, that it took the initiative of Labor to get the Builders Labourers Federation deregistered as a union in 1986 at both the federal and state levels (except in Queensland).

All this is by way of sending you a reference below to the union problems in the building industry, as briefly recorded in a published letter.

Des Moore

Task for a force
letter published in The Australian, 14 September 2011
[Square brackets show Op-Ed Deletions.]

Your editorial rightly praises the Baillieu Government’s decision to send inspectors to building sites to investigate [restrictive practices by] unions (“Building on-site productivity”, 13/9).

However, as is clear from practices [allowed to occur under federal legislation] at the desalination plant [(and the apparent ineffectiveness of the Australian Building and Construction Commission)], Victoria needs [itself to establish] an effective protective mechanism. When facing similar problems in the early 1990s, and following a Productivity Commission report on work arrangements on large building projects, the NSW Liberal government established its own Building Industry Task Force. That body worked closely with the police force and reduced union thuggery and improved industrial harmony until union pressure led the newly elected Carr government to abolish it in 1995.

[The ineffectiveness of existing federal regulatory arrangements calls for all states to take such action as they are legally able to protect both employers and the public interest not only in the building industry but more generally] By Op-Ed “All states would do well to establish such task forces”.

Des Moore, South Yarra Vic

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