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  Issue No 37 Official Organ of LaborNet 29 October 1999  

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Piers Watch

Inside the Gangland


Melbourne academic Mark Davis caused quite a stir when he released 'Gangland', his analysis of how Baby Boomers have come to dominate and refuse to share the Australian cultural landscape. Perhaps when he releases his next edition he can look at recent events in the union movement.

One of the cliques that Davis exposed was the aging coterie of newspaper columnists who dispense their homogenised versions of the conventional wisdom to that mediums aging readership.

Some of those who Davis singles out in Gangland were at it again this week, stomping on Michael Costa for having the audacity to advocate a generational change in the ACTU leadership. While the rhetoric was framed as an attack on Costa for being anti-older woman, the subtext was clear: a young woman would not be up to the job.

Take this offering from the Australian's Susan Mitchell in an opinion piece sub-headed "youth won't save the union movement" :- "Preferably blonde, sexy someone who'd go to all the first-night parties, someone the gossip columns talked about, someone who smiled sweetly for the cameras, someone Sam Newman might find attractive, someone who had her finger on the pulse. Now that's a role model! Emphasis on the model., It doesn't matter if she hasn't had much experience in the union movement."

Mitchell's piece continues in the vein; openly sneering that the idea of a young face having anything to offer the ailing movement; instead advocating a business as usual approach of paying back the Baby Boomer leaders for services rendered - even if those services have left unions on the brink of extinction.

Combined with her overtly racist comments about Costa "someone who looks like a bouncer from the Godfather'; the column dismisses any attempt at a generational analysis with the trite quoter "Beauty fades; dumb is forever".

Mitchell has been running these sorts of arguments for years. As Davis chronicles in Gangland, Mitchell was a member of the Helen Garner cheer squad after she released 'The First Stone', a bitter attack on a new generation of feminists. Davis observes how Mitchell whinges about youth having 'absorbed the culture of complaint along with the Big Macs, KFC and wearing a baseball cap backwards'(!?). No wonder she doesn;t like Costa!

How does all this relate to our hero? Well, Piers was at it too - dedicating his Sunday column to attacking Costa - which was more difficult than usual given that Costa was criticising another of Piers' favourite targets, the ACTU hierarchy.

What to do? Piers decided to attack both the ACTU for promoting a woman; and Costa for suggesting the merit of youth. More intriguing for a warrior against 'political correctness', was Piers' use of the ageism and sexism tags; proof that Piers accepts the PC line as the rhetorical tool it has always been.

Piers fans will be keen to learn the Ak-man also gets a guernsey in Gangland for his work on the late and lamentable TV show "The Last Shout". And so he should, there's always room in the gang for one who dispenses the truth with such certainty

While Akerman and Mitchell would be horrified to think of themselves as kindred spirits, their treatment of the generational debate and their failure to even engage with the substantive issue raised mark them as such.

That's the thing with the Boomers' gang; even when they come from seemingly different orientations, they end up saying much the same thing - we are the arbiters of taste and sense; we are the ones who know best.

Postscript

Pierswatch fans may have seen a photo of Michael Costa in a Pierswatch T-shirt on page two of Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald. Interestingly, the words "Piers the Hutt" had been blacked out of the photo. We are still trying to fathom the reasons for this censorship!

A second edition of 'Gangland - Cultural Elites and the New Generationalism' by Mark Davis has just been published by Allen and Unwin


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*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 37 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Republic: Yes, It's Time
Opposition leader Kim Beazley invoked the spirit of '72 when he launched the ALP's Republic campaign.
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*  Interview: What Price a Just Republic?
Magistrate Pat O’Shane is far from happy with the republican model. But she still believes a Yes vote is her best chance for genuine constitutional reform.
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*  Economics: Who the EFIC are you?
If you have not heard of Export Credit Agencies, don't be surprised because it seems they're not too interested in letting the public know what they do.
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*  Unions: Old Habits Die Hard
With the release of its blue print [email protected] the ACTU seems to know where it wants to go. But again it has failed to face up to the underlying structural issues preventing it from getting there.
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*  Legal: Second Wave: Reith's Non-Right to Strike
Peter Reith has called his new laws the Workplace relations Amendment (More Jobs Better Pay) Bill 1999. If legislation is to carry these new, colloquial titles then the ‘More Control, Less Freedom’ Bill would be a better title.
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*  International: Wahid’s New Team
Indonesias new government is blemished by Suharto-era appointees but an advance for reform, says Indonesia’s trade unions.
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*  History: They Fought Them on the Airwaves
Radio broadcasts were an important weapon in the long-running struggle for equal pay.
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*  Satire: Revealed: SOCOG Reserving Gold Medals for Tattersalls
The scandal over the secret allotment of premium tickets for the 2000 Olympics escalated today with the news that members of Sydney’s elite Tattersall’s Club will receive Gold Medals without actually competing.
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*  Review: What The Age Wouldn’t Print
Some time before Monday 18 October, Age editor Michael Gawenda saw red and then got out his blue pencil. An article, heavily critical of Robert Manne, written by Overland editor Ian Syson, was pulled by Gawenda.
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»  POSITION VACANT: MEAA Inquiry Desk Officer
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Columns
»  Guest Report
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»  Sport
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Piers Watch
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Letters to the editor
»  An X for President - Feedback
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»  Republican Soapbox
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»  Education an Asset for All
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