It is my opinion that Akerman is an intellectual fraud; in his opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph, 13/10/13, his ideologically driven ignorance is on full display. There is one significant section worth focussing on, but to put the thrust of the argument briefly, Akerman is railing against the terrible impost of weekend and penalty rates to business, in this case the "service and tourism industry." This is one of many industrial relations piñatas that the Right likes to have a whack at; it's also a proxy for the minimum wage, which is the real killer of jobs in this country - even though unemployment is well within serviceable limits. There is a moral and social argument for both penalty rates and the minimum wage, which I won't go into detail here, except to say that is a necessary impost on the economy to ensure equitable treatment between disparate economic entities. I am always open to this argument, and if need be will return to it again at a later date.
Like a good ideologue Akerman accuses penalty rates of costing young people jobs, and mounts a disjointed argument to prove his case - disjointed, that is, because he relies on commentary from vested interests (the ACCI, for instance, which is, essentially, a lobby group for business), with no scrutiny, and the only data he does provide is unrelated to the thrust of his argument. Somehow, he starts off in the service and tourist industry, and goes on to cite prohibitive "port costs" as evidence of... something! To be sure, the evidence he does cite (albeit without attribution of the source), is interesting and points to a genuine concern regarding our international competitiveness in the cruise ship tourism market; but, one must ask the question, how is this related to penalty rates? Furthermore, how does this relate to the actual headline of the story: "Young pay penalty of union demands."
"Disjointed" is a compliment. But the real fraudulence of Akerman's piece comes in the following paragraph, or rather sentence:
"With pay loadings for weekend work and public holidays now reaching 250 per cent, it is not economically feasible for many employers to keep their businesses open when demand should logically be highest."
This sentence and the propositions embedded in this sentence lie at the heart of Akerman's argument and his intellectual fraudulence. There are two major problems with it. The first the lesser of two howlers, and is a fallacy. The first clause is a false conjunction: "With pay loadings for weekend work and public holidays now reaching 250 per cent." Weekend loading and Public Holiday penalty rates are not the same thing, yet he is implying that they are. He is stretching the truth further by citing only the public holiday rates. 250 per cent, otherwise known as "double-time-and-a-half" is the public holiday rate; it has been thus for as long as I can remember. Weekend rates are different, and significantly less. Yet he does not make the distinction. He is creating a very, very grey space in which the imagination of gullible reader might come to the conclusion that on at least 104 days a year, some slimy, unionised crook is earning double time and a half! Akerman has omitted all of the necessary distinctions and qualifications to make that clause meaningless.
Which brings me to the even grander lie. Following this fanciful leap of fallacy, Akerman concludes "it is not economically feasible for many employers to keep their businesses open when demand should logically be highest." I will put it bluntly: penalty rates do not have any influence on consumer demand. If the weekend is when "demand should logically be highest" then, by definition, more people are coming into the store. Nobody refuses to go shopping because the shop assistants might be earning time-and-a-half or double-time-and-a-half. People go shopping because they want things, or because they simply can. What the attendant is getting paid is entirely irrelevant to when "demand should logically be highest."
Now, you may object and say that Akerman is simply writing an opinion piece - as if that somehow justifies a lack of facts and logic. This kind of ideological, self-serving, poorly constructed, uncited, unedited, and un-fact-checked pablum is what passes for political discourse in this country then we are all in serious trouble! You are entitled to an opinion, of course, but why not an informed opinion? One which cites its facts and relies on logic and not ideology?