Allan Fels just showed everyone Twitter is still useful

Photo: Getty Images.

Professor Allan Fels, the former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, joined Twitter last night and went ballistic.

He used the social media platform to counter claims made by 7-Eleven that he had agreed to the end of the independent panel he chairs to compensate underpaid workers in the company’s franchisee stores.

Fels alerted a range of media organisations in a series of tweets accompanied by his statement on the issue, which took aim at the company and its practices.

Never before have we seen such a senior figure of Australian business so publicly spray a business in this fashion. The economist and lawyer also joined Facebook yesterday, publishing his statement there.

While the future of Twitter is currently under debate, Fels showed it is still useful and his intervention also suggests he has engaged with the micro-blogging service before, maybe just not publicly.

Here’s why.

Before he launched his scathing attack on the 7-Eleven claims, accusing the company of attempting to emasculate his independent panel’s work and discredit it, he did not have a Twitter account.

He first tweet: “7 Eleven has advised me and Professor Cousins that it will close down the Fels Wage Fairness Panel immediately”, was posted at 6.16pm on Wednesday. Before that he had no other known account with the network.

Between that time and now he has posted around 25 tweets and responses.

He cleverly copied in Adele Ferguson, the Fairfax Media investigative journalist who originally broke the story of the underpayments scandal in a joint report that aired on ABC’s Four Corners program last August. For someone who hasn’t used the platform before Fels certainly appeared to know what he was doing and who to contact.

Within 90 minutes of his first tweet, he was on the ABC’s 7.30 program elaborating on his claims and stories were already appearing on major media sites about the closing down of his panel. His very first tweet was retweeted more than 50 times and soon Labor politicians were joining in on Twitter, sharing his message.

Fels, regarded as someone who knew how to use traditional media of effectively during his time as ACCC chairman, showed he was equally capable in the digital social media era.

Here’s a look at his tweets.

The Twitter blast by Fels followed a statement released by 7-Eleven on Wednesday which said the Fels panel had “agreed to transition the claims process for past under-payment of wages by franchisees to an independent unit within 7-Eleven” and will close on Friday.

The independent panel was set up in September last year following revelations of the widespread exploitation of workers at 7-Eleven stores. It’s believed up to 20,000 workers were underpaid over the past decade by franchisees.

Read more here.

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