Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Politics the bloodsport - off and racing - it's Gillard, from Abbott and here comes Turnbull

Call me naive, but one thing I didn't expect out of today's leadership ballot was the all-guns-blazing-go-to-your-corners-and-come-out-when-the-bell-rings aftermath that we have seen.

Gillard finest 15 minutes

Perhaps not enough people were watching, but Prime Minister Gillard's press conference and particularly her handling of the media questions was truly Presidential.  She was strong, bold and as she said "impatient".  This was not a Prime Minister who was apologising for her position.  This was not a Prime Minister in any doubt of who was in charge.  She has an agenda, and is going to see that agenda through.

Dare I say it, but that's one from the John Howard playbook.

The Q&A plants

While Tony Abbott was just the same-old negative Tony Abbott, Coalition voters in the Q&A audience really turned up the heat tonight.  Of course we expect each side to have a clear position, but this wasn't Q&A - it was a battleground. 

Yes, the outnumbered Labor voters tried to give as good as they got, but the normally balanced audience was as parochial as Janet Albrechtsen.

Could they sense the need to up the ante? How long before we hear from Clive Palmer again?

Turnbull - the Coalition's nuclear option

The Prime Minister will get on with her agenda.  Australia will have carbon pricing, and a mineral resources tax, and health and ageing reform and a disability insurance scheme, and as many more reforms as she can muster.

History shows that when a Prime Minister does get on with the job of getting things done, they attract the respect of the nation.  Take the Howard/Costello GST - a ballsy move if ever there was one - but it gained respect.  As Gillard passes these Bills, her rating and the ALP rating will rise.

So, the jungle drums will be beating.  Turnbull is sitting at the rear of the field like Phar Lap, ready to pounce.  For all the love Abbott has of polls, all he needs is for the pendulum to swing the wrong way, and his Parliamentary supporters holding marginal seats might exercise the nuclear option and switch their allegiances.

To quote Leslie Cannold's tweet:  Coalition could send Labor into the wilderness for a decade with @TurnbullMalcolm. Abbott will be Labor 2010 all over again #qanda

The real heavyweight battle in ready to begin

We've had the 2009 Libs battle, the 2010 Labor stoush, a Federal election and the grapple for the independents, the carbon tax brawl of 2011 and now the great de-Rudding of 2012.  But, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

None of those haymakers have landed a killer blow.  Gillard is solid on her feet.  Abbott believes he has the crowd behind him, but maybe he hasn't got the goods to knock her out.

Only a fool can confidently predict the next 18 months, but if Gillard gets strong, it could be Turnbull from the clouds in the shadow of the post.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Kevin Rudd - you've let us down

Dear Kevin,

I've had plenty of jobs where I didn't get along well with my boss.  It becomes my responsibility to do my job to the best of my ability, and earn their support and trust.  Above all, I've always had clients to deliver to.  Regardless of my relationship with my boss, I had to do my best to deliver to my clients. 

Occasionally, I've felt like you that I didn't have the support of my boss, and it wasn't going to change.  So, I left and found another job.  That's your choice, Kevin.

More importantly, though, you have let us - your clients - down.  You are a very good Foreign Minister, and you've thrown in the towel.  You were not a good Prime Minister, and even if you win the spill, you will be leaving Australia with a weakened government.

Kevin, you have disappointed me.  I thought you had changed, I thought you had gained a backbone, I thought you had gained some maturity.  I was wrong.  You are none of those things.  Peter Costello was a great Treasurer who wanted the top job, and never got it from John Howard.  You could have been remembered as a great Foreign Minister. 

Now, you will just be remembered as a crybaby.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

It affects me - that's why I must support the private health insurance means test

I want Australia to be more productive, more creative, more fair and economically successful.  Some of these goals require change - change that impacts on real people.

So, when the Gillard government proposed the private health insurance means test, I had to ask myself, does this fit the criteria? Will it make us more productive, or economically successful.  The answer is probably yes.  We need to afford a health system, we need a public dental care system, and for individuals earning over $83,000 or families over $166,000 it seems fair to reduce the rebate they are receiving for purchasing health insurance in return for a $2.4 billion saving over just 3 years.

And it affects me - so I can't very well argue for some changes that don't impact me directly if I won't support changes that do affect me.

Productivity changes affect real people - that's why we need them

If productivity changes didn't impact on anyone, then they are probably not doing anything.  At the moment, Australia is in a once in a century mining boom.  Yes, it's impacting on many industries.  Yes, a lot of people can't see that this is doing them any good.  But, the impacts are real, and they have the potential to transform Australia for the better.

If we want to preserve old manufacturing industries, who is going to pay for it? All of us.

If we want to protect old fashioned retailers, who is going to be affected? All of us.

If we want to continue to drive our economy with polluting, carbon-intensive fuels, who is going to be affected? All of us.

So, we need to embrace the changes that are needed and take advantage of the one in a century opportunity that we are being handed.

I might have to pay and we all might have to change

At the moment, my job isn't impacted by the changes to the economy.  It wasn't always that way - I've been made redundant when the Marketing industry went through change.  So, if you are a manufacturing worker at the Toyota plant, or a retail worker whose shifts are being cut, it would be natural to be concerned. 

For most workers, there are other opportunities.  95% of people who want a job currently are employed.  For the retail worker, you have sales skills - there are currently over 2,000 sales jobs being offered in Melbourne alone.  For the manufacturing worker, there are over 1,500 jobs in Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics in Melbourne.  Change can seem scary, but it's what we have to do as society changes.

For me, I have to pay more for my private health insurance.  I can't ask you to adapt if I won't.  We all have to share the journey.

Tony Abbott's position makes no sense

Given that I will have to pay more for my private health cover, I don't understand why Tony Abbott wants to give me a hand out. Here is his statement on radio...

"Private health insurance is in our DNA. It is our raison d'etre, that is why we exist as a political movement, to give more support and encourage for people who want to get ahead. So, look, private health insurance is an article of faith for us. We will restore the rebate in government as soon as we can.''

So, is he saying that if you are wealthy, we will give you more money to make you more wealthy? Huh?? Honestly, that makes no sense.

Or is he saying he wants to do away with Medicare, and just have private health insurance? That would make even less sense, and be even less equitable.

I'm really trying to understand his perspective, but frankly, I can't see it at all.  Then again, I can't see why Prime Minister Gillard insists on bailing out foreign car companies either ... but that's a discussion for another day.

Times are changing, and we all have to step up to the plate.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

I'm not a monarchist but thank goodness we've had Queen Elizabeth

I am a strong Republican, and still bemoan the squabbling that led to the failure of the 1999 referendum. So, I am not in favour of us having the Queen of England - a foreign country - as our head of State.

Quite separately to my view on a republic, I am very grateful that Queen Elizabeth II has been the head of state of Australia for 60 years.  I'm grateful, because she has been an exceptional person. So, on this diamond jubilee, let's celebrate the excellence of leadership that this individual has provided to our country, and forget for a moment whether she should have that power or not.

Great Queen Elizabeth qualities we can all aspire to 
Calmness under pressure
The classic pressure moment in our recent memory was the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana in 1997.  There has been much written about the Queen's response, but you cannot doubt that she kept her calm and focus, and ultimately responded appropriately.

Growing up through World War II, Elizabeth learnt how to cope with circumstances much more trying than any of us living in the relative peace of 2012 can imagine.  That English resilience is shared by Queenslanders coping with floods, and Victorians recovering from bushfires (3 years ago today).  Having a resilient role model has certainly been a positive.

Responsive to change
Unlike many older leaders around the world, Queen Elizabeth has been responsive to change.  She has breached pre-existing royal protocols, held a huge party inside the grounds of Buckingham Palace for the golden jubilee, and moved with the times not against them over 60 years.  Yes, she has her views and would prefer some things to stay the same, but on the whole she has been very modern.

How could you be loyal to a bloke like Phillip? Really! Well, it shows that a strong relationship really can withstand all sorts of pressures, quirks, gaffes and according to some reports, even affairs.  For Queen Elizabeth, though, he has been her rock, and she has been his.  Of course, her loyalty extends beyond the personal, to the national.  She has been a staunch supporter of all of her peoples of the Commonwealth.

Good on you Elizabeth.  You are a great woman, a great leader, and we've been lucky to have you.  Long may you reign.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Age discrimination must stop

It's illegal and it's stupid.  Experienced, talented people aged over 50 are being discriminated against in the workforce. This week, the Financial Services Council released a report showing that more than a quarter of workers aged over 50 experienced direct discrimination.  This follows on from a report in 2010 from the Australian Human Rights Commission saying the same thing.

Before I go on, I have no preference for older workers over younger ones.  I have worked with (and continue to work with) fantastic people in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.  I've also worked with incompetent people at every age bracket as well.

Yet, older workers are worthy of particular comment.

There are lots of over 50 workers, and will be lots more

Our society is ageing, and over the next 10 years, this will become more and more apparent as the baby boomers move through their 50s, 60s and 70s.  There are a lot of these people.  So why on earth would an employer decide to reject a huge cohort of workers? Surely that's just reducing your choice when there are so many people in that bracket

Older workers have experience

It doesn't matter how you cut it, if you are older, you've had more years to learn.  Not everyone who is older is wise (there are plenty of grumpy old men and women who haven't seemed to have learnt anything), but, by definition, it is almost impossible to have experience if you are young.

Older people want to work

Research has found that older men in particular place a high value on their work as a key part of their identity.  They don't want to give up working.  They have often had children, who have left home, and their work is one of the most important ways that they can feel that they are still valuable to society.

(On the flipside, the Financial Services Council report identified that older workers might need to compromise on their salary and title expectations.)

So many older workers are very effective

The Catholic Church forced Father Bob
Maguire to retire at 78.
Here are some older workers you might know.  Warren Buffet, Ban Ki Moon, Aung San Suu Kyi, Matt Groening, Clint Eastwood, David Stratton, Father Bob Maguire ...

In fact, the list could go on for hundreds of pages, because there are so many effective people who are aged in their 50s, 60s, 70s...

These people are dedicated, they value their work, they want to do a good job.  As an employer, I want to choose the best person for the job.  These people are the best at their job.  And because they care about what they do, they are most likely to be stable.  A 55 year old might give you 10 years of solid service.  What's the likelihood of a 22 year old giving you that long? If they are the right person for the job, then hire them, and let them work as long as they want.

No discrimination. None.

We have spent the entire 20th century breaking down barriers for women in the workforce, and despite making huge improvements, we are still not there.  We cannot afford to have any discrimination against older workers, as we have had against women (and many other groups) for so long.

It is time to value people for what they can contribute, and genuinely not discriminate, particularly on the basis of age.

Let me know what you think

Mark S