Strapped in for mid-air dharma

In The Australian today:
“Tony Sheldon’s call for a campaign of “civil disobedience” against Qantas has been hailed in the labour movement. “It’s new thinking,” said the shadow Minister for Offence, Senator Stephen Conroy, “we’ve never tried being civil before.”

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas is a columnist for The Australian newspaper and the inaugural Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong. The SMART Infrastructure Facility is a $61.8 million world-class research and training centre concerned with integrated infrastructure solutions for the future. Henry is also Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia. Prior to these concurrent roles Henry worked as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Henry's previous career was as an economist at the OECD in Paris, where amongst other roles he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment and was Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department.
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21 Responses to Strapped in for mid-air dharma

  1. Turtle of WA

    Sheer genius Henry. A fine piece of writing.

  2. Blogstrop

    Were you at Rabz’ 50th party, Henry?

  3. Anthony S Adams

    I say to Mr Sheldon and the CMFEU remember the British coal mines under Margaret Thatcher! Alas they are no more!

  4. JohnA

    “It’s new thinking,” said the shadow Minister for Offence, Senator Stephen Conroy, “we’ve never tried being civil before.”

    Of course it is, they spent all their time writing the book on the disobedience part!

  5. Sir Fred Lenin

    I can visualise the alp/ green/ fscist scum in dhotis and specswith shaved heads in canberra in winter! Bring it on shorty! haHa .

  6. Brian of Moorabbin

    “It’s new thinking,” said the shadow Minister for Offence, Senator Stephen Conroy, “we’ve never tried being civil before.”

    I’m absolutely stunned by this moment of clarity by Senator Conjob.

    Either that or he is going to claim that he was misquoted, and taken out of context…..

  7. Yobbo

    Article paywalled. In future just post it here.

  8. Megan

    Hoping their lack of practicing the civil bit will mean there is serious disagreement by the various parties on how to go about this for at least a month…I’m booked on the Flying Rat for a work trip to LA at the end of April. And Conroy’s comment has to be a joke…no way he has the intellectual wherewithal to be able to manage such a sophisticated concept.

  9. Aussieute

    Just brilliant … love the style. I checked back half way through thinking, “I thought this was Henry, May be I misread the byline”

    Top stuff!

  10. I’m absolutely stunned by this moment of clarity by Senator Conjob.

    The plod from Oz’s fundamental orifice bemoaning a lack of civility.
    Talk about pot and kettle…………….

  11. Fibro

    This article cannot be correct. It has the words Conjob and Thinking in the same sentence.

  12. Tom

    I’ll have a kilo of whatever you’re smoking, Henry.

  13. OldOzzie

    Henry, Superb – who knew Economists could do such great Satire and Comedy

    Strapped in for mid-air dharma

    HENRY ERGAS THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 07, 2014 12:00AM

    TONY Sheldon’s call for a campaign of “civil disobedience” against Qantas has been hailed in the labour movement. “It’s new thinking,” said the shadow Minister for Offence, Senator Stephen Conroy, “we’ve never tried being civil before.”

    Welcoming Conroy’s donation of his trademark red underwear to a fundraising drive, the Mascot Mahatma thanked the Senator for his support, pledging : “I will wear it always.”

    Labor leader Bill Shorten, returning from civility practice in Victorian pie shops, added to the endorsements, as did Belinda Neal, who with taxi specialist Mark Latham is providing politeness training for the Transport Workers Union.

    And, likening the campaign to the Vietnam moratorium, Tanya Plibersek commended the decision by a group of Labor Gold Pass holders to stage teach-ins at Qantas Chairman’s Lounges.

    Linking arms with some of the party’s legendary Gold Pass users, Plibersek led the Labor Elders Choir in 1960s protest songs, including the iconic We Shall Not Take Off. (“We shall not take off/We shall not take off/Why, deep in my heart, I do believe/we shall not take off today”). Other passengers, whose flights showed no signs of departing, praised the campaign for reflecting “conditions on the ground” while the choir burst into I Still Call Trades Hall Home.

    “That’s the Labor way,” said Sheldon, affectionately known as Bapu in the union movement. “It’s important we explain to the community our intention is not to dislocate travellers,” he added.

    “Indeed, if we have our way, travellers won’t go anywhere at all. At least, not on Qantas. Like us, they can stand around all day with red underpants on their head. That’ll show the Irishman.”

    Sheldon was speaking at the launch of Troy Bramston’s collection of the campaign’s finest speeches, “Waiting for The Flight on the Hill”, when he signalled a widening in the union’s action. “We are starting a hunger strike”, Sheldon warned, “that will mobilise the movement’s heavyweights.”

    Already, Shorten has been spotted sneaking a cut lunch on to a Qantas flight from Canberra to Sydney, along with a ’goon bag that can be conveniently inflated for use as a pillow after consumption. The twittersphere, however, is alight with speculation Kevin Rudd might starve abiding the union’s call to refuse Qantas’s signature cuisine. “Star­ving Kevin to death,” tweeted @faceless, “makes even giving up #QF B-class wines worth it!”

    But a statement from Rudd’s office said that, after giving courtesy lessons on RAAF flights, the former prime minister now only travels by private plane.

    Julia Gillard, in contrast, has announced her intention to play an active role in the campaign, gifting a hand-knitted red kang­aroo to the union’s fundraising auction. Calling it time for Qantas to “move backwards”, Gillard reminded her colleagues boarding a Qantas VIP to the wedding of Paul Howes and Olivia Wirth that “ever since the Chifley government, working families have had a right to a poorly managed, government-owned airline”.

    “We are us,” she insisted, “and Alan Joyce’s hyper-bowl won’t change that: not now, not ever.”

    But other Labor leaders have focused on helping the airline overcome its woes without far-reaching job cuts.

    Promising “a strategy that will see Qantas return to surplus in three years’ time, three years ahead of schedule”, shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has tasked Wayne Swan with piloting the airline’s recovery.

    “Far from flying in the dark,” Swan vowed, “our ‘Building the Aviation Revolution’ will do for what goes up what Labor’s Collins submarine program did for what goes down.”

    Echoing that commitment, shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled plans for the carrier’s nationalisation.

    “All 10 of the world’s 10 worst airlines are government-owned,” said Albanese, who has been studying aviation on Wikipedia, “and only Tories think an Australian airline cannot be among them.”

    “Making no apology” for his views, Albanese argued that bringing a Michael Williamson or an Eddie Obeid on to a ­government-appointed Qantas board would inject a “can-do” culture the carrier lacks.

    “If there were direct flights from Sussex Street to the Bahamas, Qantas would rake it in,” Albanese opined, proposing a “Sunny Spots for Shady People” advertising blitz.

    And, he hinted, “they might even squeeze in a Tory or two, though that would make for a very crowded plane.”

    Not everyone, however, is ­infused with the Gandhi spirit.

    Asked about the turn to civility, the CFMEU’s John Setka gave a two-word reply, the first a short guttural verb and the second “off”.

    Harking back to union leader Pat Shannon, whose epitaph “you c — t”, spoken as he died of gunshot wounds in 1973, synthesised 40 years of philosophical reflection, Setka urged a return to Labor values.

    As for the Greens, they are deeply split. The party’s radical wing wants air travel shut down altogether. “Just look at what Qantas are doing to the ecological balance,” said protesters the Air Shepherd, who scale A380s in mid-flight. But transport spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon is more measured.

    Reminiscing about Aeroflot in the golden days of the Brezhnev era, Rhiannon criticised Tony Abbott’s move to reintroduce knights and dames into Australian honours. “If instead Alan Joyce could aspire to the Gold Star (Two Sickles) of the Hero of Socialist Labour,” she said, “you’d get Soviet quality on Qantas and Australians flocking to state rail: a win-win solution.”

    But none of that dents Sheldon’s resolve. “Swadeshi and Satyagraha are my lodestones,” he confesses, as he settles down, dressed only in his red underwear dhoti, for another night spent meditating on the runway.

    As darkness descends, nothing disturbs the stillness but the gentle roar of Emirates and Etihad planes in the distance. “We destroyed Qantas so as to save it,” muses the 51-year-old. “Who could hope for a higher dharma than that?”

  14. Michel Lasouris

    I have to ask, whoever could or would employ Conroy once his sinecure as a Senator ends?

  15. Mr Rusty

    I have to ask, whoever could or would employ Conroy once his sinecure as a Senator ends?

    A company that makes flavoured milk?

  16. johanna

    Henry is on fire! Awesome. Mind you, he was working in a target-rich environment. But still.

    More humour please, Henry. You have kept your light under a bushel for way too long.

  17. ChrisPer

    This is the best exposition I have seen of just how ludicrous the Labor years became. Its an indictment on WA that Labor/Greens still got 21%+16% of the primary vote.

  18. GlendaH

    I know the article’s already been posted above, but for future reference here’s a hint to read articles hidden behind paywalls.
    Enter a couple of keywords from the headline In a Google search window – in this case Ergas and dharma will work fine: then select the item from the original source, in this case ” The Australian” – bingo, no paywall.

  19. Combine_Dave

    I have to ask, whoever could or would employ Conroy once his sinecure as a Senator ends?

    Taxpayer funded consultancy firm?

  20. Tel

    This article cannot be correct. It has the words Conjob and Thinking in the same sentence.

    That was the bit that twigged me Henry must have got some part time work writing for The Onion.

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