Media Storm Troopers

Industry barons roll out the big guns against the union

First up it was Senator Abetz, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate whose last claim to fame was the ute-gate affair having a go at MUA members over wage claims.  Then, with breathtaking hypocrisy Peter Anderson,  CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing corporate bosses on $6-8m executive salaries, had the audacity to claim MUA offshore claims were "ridiculously excessive". And last but not least, hired pen Professor Ross Fitzgerald joined the frey, damning Australian seafarers as unskilled workers not worthy of the wages in the 6-figure range.

The Murdoch press was the main offender, refusing point blank to run a union right of reply to the ACCI allegations on The Australian's opinion pages, before giving a half page union bash to the professor on the weekend.

Ross Fitzgerald claimed in The Australian on January 16 the union was making outrageous wage claims of an additional $70,000 to $100,000 a year for unskilled workers.  He appeared to advocate a return to individual contracts and the good old days of the Howard Government's Work Choices regime.

$100,000 a year for a highly skilled Australian seafarer in the multi billion dollar offshore oil and gas industry excessive??  Hardly.

Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry worried about high wages?!.   This is the same man who spent most of last year fighting on behalf of the bosses (including Pacific Brands) to stop the Rudd Government legislating against executive greed measured in the millions - pay rises of around $3-$4m according to the ACTU.

Makes a bonus of a few hundred dollars for hard working MUA crew labouring under the scorching sun thousands of kilometers from home and family on the North West Shelf sound pretty modest to any reasonable person, doesn't it?

Executive pay, Anderson argued day after day in the media and any other forum he could get a leg up on, shouldn't be subject to government regulation.

And he was successful.  While the Productivity Commission found CEO pay packs had swelled around 250 percent in real terms since 1993 and the average annual salary among Australia's top 20 CEOs now topped A$7.2 million a year, it recommended shareholders alone have the right act against corporate greed.

According to ACTU the top 50 publicly listed companies increased chief executive pay by 564 percent between 1990 and 2005 by $3.4 million. The executive pay in 1990 was pegged at 18 times higher than the average full-time wage. In 2005, it jumped to a whopping 63 times.

And as for Senator Abetz, great-nephew of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Abetz, Nazi German ambassador to Vichy France from 1940 to 1944, according to Wikipedia, misleading is the name of the game. 

In mid 2009 Abetz was a central figure in the OzCar affair, Ute Gate affair, alleging the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan had improperly given favourable treatment to a car dealer, mate John Grant.

It was the erstwhile senator who on 19 June, asked a series of questions of a treasury official, Godwin Grech. Abetz read out the text of what he said was an email, which purported to ask for preferential treatment for Grant. Grech later admitted that he had forged the email.

As it turned out the allegation was a complete fabrication. 

So too allegations that Australian seafarers are under skilled and over paid.