IT’S ONE THING to be peddling a narrow, outdated agenda laced with the ulterior motives that go with being a poodle of the union movement; it’s something else altogether to propagate wildly conspiratorial, sensationalist nonsense whilst posing as the alternative candidate for the Prime Ministership. Bill Shorten’s performance yesterday, using aviation safety as the latest union attack instrument, is a political embarrassment to the ALP.
If so-called opposition “leader” Bill Shorten is to be taken seriously, then whatever you do, folks, don’t ever hop on an aeroplane outside Australia. That would include Qantas aircraft, to be clear. In fact, you’d better check with the pilot before getting on a domestic flight in Australia, too: if the plane has Rolls Royce engines, for instance, that went for overhaul at the specialist Rolls Royce engine facility in Hong Kong, perhaps you should consider catching a different flight.
I used to think things were bad when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were running the country; Gillard and her cronies used every socially divisive and regressive dirty trick in the book to stir up political hostility to detract from their shockingly incompetent performance. The less said of the contemptibly narcissistic Rudd — for whom this column has amply expressed its utter loathing on both political and personal grounds — the better.
But Bill Shorten — picked right from the outset by your columnist as a political disaster in the making — hasn’t done anything in four months as “leader” to prove that judgement wrong, and in fact, the more he has to say, the more determined he seems to prove me right.
Shorten’s performance in the House of Representatives yesterday beggars belief; nobody in this country is under any illusion that he is anything more than a cat’s paw for the union movement: as we have said previously, the only jobs the ALP is interested in “saving” are unionised jobs, and the only reason Labor cares about even those is that without them, the cosy citadels and fiefdoms of its union puppeteers would collapse.
Even so — and in full consideration of just how charged and politically fraught the issue of Qantas is at present — I think holding up the prospect of dangerously unsafe aviation practices in Australia in what can only be seen as an attempt to terrify people into compliance with the union/Labor position is a step way too far.
The fundamental problem with the union/Labor position on Qantas — that it must remain at least 51% Australian owned to “protect” Australian jobs, a reference to clauses in the Qantas Sale Act that stipulate most of the airline’s maintenance and staffing must be conducted here — is that if the unions succeed, via Shorten, in their aim of protecting all unionised jobs at Qantas (and remembering the unions have already said they will not countenance either wage cuts or freezes to “legally payable” pay increases), the company could well collapse under the weight of its labour bill.
It proves very neatly that the union/Labor attack has nothing to do with the survival of Qantas at all.
But today’s new tack is to suggest that Qantas aeroplanes are only safe because Australian maintenance staff work on them, and this in turn proves just as neatly why Bill Shorten is unelectable as Prime Minister.
Firstly, the very suggestion raises the implicit notion that aeroplanes maintained by non-Australian workers are unsafe: such an idea is xenophobic, distasteful, and hardly conducive to the assistance of the country’s largest operator in arguably the most globally interconnected industry in the world.
Second, it ignores the fact that every commercial passenger aircraft operating in this country will, at various times, require maintenance performed by foreign personnel: the example of the Rolls Royce engine facility in Hong Kong is an excellent one. There are plenty of others. And it should be noted that in such instances, the preferences of airline managements around local or foreign maintenance solutions simply don’t exist.
Third, this concept of unsafe planes presided over by supposedly dangerous maintenance workers overseas is a de facto accusation that every foreign airline in the world isn’t fit to fly with when, quite clearly, that is not the case.
And fourth, the signal this message sends abroad to potential investors and trading partners is that under Labor, a very dim view indeed will be taken of foreigners operating in Australia and providing goods and services to Australian companies.
Again, xenophobia bordering on racism.
It is offensive to suggest that the safety of Australia’s commercial aviation industry would be compromised simply on account of Qantas being permitted to send more of its maintenance load offshore.
And it’s pretty poor form, in a vast country that is as dependent on aviation for transport, communications and freight links as Australia is, to suggest to voters that the whole industry might actually be doomed if those cheap and nasty (and useless) hordes to our north were to ever lay a spanner on a big red and white aeroplane used to fly Australians to other places.
To be frank, holding up the prospect of an inherently unsafe aviation industry unless Labor and the unions get what they want is sinister, threatening, and poses real questions about the fitness to even sit in Parliament of Shorten and his ilk.
Readers might think I’m splitting hairs over a minor point simply to attack Shorten in raising this. I assure you that I’m not.
Very simply, Shorten and his cohorts in the ALP will increasingly say or do anything — irrespective of the cost — to advance the agenda of the union movement and to seek to elevate that agenda above every other consideration at play in this country’s political conversation.
If I had anything to do with the aviation industry anywhere else in the world, I’d be marking Shorten’s outburst in Parliament yesterday down as something to remember; should he ever become Prime Minister, there’s an entire global industry he’s alienated over a few cheap political cracks that will, in likelihood, achieve nothing constructive.
The list of dubious “achievements” that constitute Bill Shorten’s “leadership” of the ALP — and his campaign to secure it — is growing.
Chalk this up as another grubby stunt that will do far more harm than good if Shorten ever finds his way into the Prime Ministership.