Aker sacking an example for political parties

Aker GuttedIt seems appropriate that Jason Akermanis was shafted in the middle of an election campaign. The tensions between conflicting interests that led to his sacking have also been exhibited in the election campaign. But in politics they have been negotiated much more disreputably.

In the Akermanis story the individual good, the common good and the good of sectional interests have clearly stood in tension with one another. Akermanis' individual interest was to exploit his footballing talent in order to increase his income and to prepare for a media career after football. So he contributed to the media while continuing to play football.

The common good to which Akermanis contributed by playing football was the happiness and success of the Western Bulldogs. This was not incompatible with his individual interests, but stood in tension with them. Comments by an individual on the club to which he belongs are always likely to threaten the culture of trust on which the welfare of the club depends.

The sectional interests in the Akermanis affair were the media to which he directly and indirectly contributed. Controversial stories that provoke internal conflict are the food and drink of sports media. The thirst for sensational stories was in tension both with the good of the club and ultimately with Akermanis' own good.

The end of the affair saw the club properly gave priority to the common good over Akermanis' individual good. But it also revealed the conflict of interests inherent in the financial reliance of football clubs on the media. The interest aroused by the media adventures for which Jason Akermanis was sacked by the Bulldogs ultimately provides the justification for the media to invest in football, and so underwrites the existence of the Bulldogs and other football clubs.

The tension between the individual good, the common good and the good of sectional interests seen in Akermanis' sacking turned malignant in the Melbourne Storm affair. The common good of a happy and successful team was completely compromised. The good of individual players was secured by clandestine payments.

It then became apparent that sectional interests in the form of a media company effectively controlled the Storm. It sacked its independent directors, commissioned studies which were not made public, and cited the studies in order to apportion and publicise blame and innocence in the scandal.

It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the good of sectional interests — profitability and avoidance of embarrassment — was given highest priority. It was also difficult for anyone outside the world of Rugby League to understand why any player with self respect and any interest in belonging to a strong club would want to join a club run in this way.

That brings us despondently to the election campaign. It would be possible to see the replacement of Mr Rudd by Ms Gillard as reflecting the triumph of the common good in the form of the party over the good of the individual. But in elections the individual good is really represented by the political parties. Their desire to rule is in tension with the good of the nation, the common good. And the good both of political parties and of the nation stands in tension with sectional interests — with business, media and influential groups of voters, for example.

This election campaign is peculiarly depressing because the tension that ought to exist between the parties and common good has collapsed. The treatment of the mining tax and of emissions trading showed that both parties were prepared to sell out to vested interests. They showed themselves equally ready to pander to the prejudices of voters in marginal seats when responding to asylum seekers and to immigration.

The irony of the campaign so far is that, as the common good has become identified with the interests of the parties, the wind has been taken out of the sails of sectional interests. The media which have generally promoted selling out to the big miners and endorsed a populist exclusion of asylum seekers have found that the Coalition, which normally represents their cause, has dealt itself out of further restricting the rights of workers and of opposing moves that will limit business migration.

But sectional interests are experts in making wind, and doubtless they will be able to work effectively on the self-interest of both parties. In the meantime, though, we can feel sorry Aker in his disappointment, but encouraged that the Western Bulldogs have had the courage to give priority to the common good over individual and sectional interests, come what may. And we can dream of a distant day when the senior figures in political parties may follow their example and also lean into the wind.

andrew_hamilton0605.jpgAndrew Hamilton is the consulting editor for Eureka Street. He teaches at the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne.

Topic tags: Jason Akermanis, Western Bulldogs, David Smorgon, Rodney Eade, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard



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Existing comments

Interesting too that the Church has, largely by its own actions over the last 40 years, dealt itself out of any meaningful role in leading the community anywhere.

Russell | 23 July 2010  

these were my thoughts exactly when i watched this interview on the footy show.

great to see we think alike out there!

jenny batesman | 26 July 2010  

Will E.S. deign to comment on the Theophanous affair, in which a manifestly pro-life Labor politician was hounded out of his career disgracefully by dissembling journalists from The Age?

Given the AH focus above at length on a mere football player's troubles, a Catholic blog would surely find something to talk about here?

Oh, no. Wait. I remember there was a Moyra Rayner article robustly defending Christine Nixon in her role on the night of the tragic bushfires. Criticisms of her decisions were a "crucifixion", so the E.S. headline would have us believe. Well, check out the Final Report and decide for yourselves, folks.

But at the same time the Fairfax press bayed that the Supreme Pontiff watched a movie one night while the multi-decade sexual abuse crisis was not yet resolved! I mean, the outrage!!

Any comment from E.S.? Nup. Zip.

I'm not sure I can work out the priorities of E.S., but who knows?

Perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised.

Otherwise I will conclude, a la Maria Monk, that there are tunnels between the 'Guardian on the Yarra' and 'Eureka Street'.

Methinks I can guess, sadly, where the firmer ground lies.

HH | 02 August 2010  

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