Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Follow the Leader

What you see depends on where you stand.
You know what I mean? If I sit at my desk, I can see the palm trees and the giant Moreton Bay fig in the yard. It’s a vista of rich green shapes that fills the window. But if I move about 5 steps to my boss’s desk, the green growth that fills my window is only a small part at the edge of his vision. He sees mainly blue-grey sky, grass, and beyond that, the river reflecting the mood of the sky.
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is in a very different place now to where she was just a month ago, and I imagine her view is very different from the back benches. More importantly, Ms Gillard’s view of the future has changed too. I don't know what it is that she sees, but I know it's different, because her perspective is different.
Kevin Rudd has been Prime Minister before, so the view is distantly familiar, but the environment and challenges are different.
Remember  that our views have changed too. Where a month ago our leader was a red-headed woman, it’s now a silver haired man. Change is emotional, for those involved and for those looking on. As a Change Manager, I should be aware of this, and in a professional capacity, I certainly am. As an observer and biased commentator on the political situation, I seem to be less astute.
There is still so much bad feeling lingering after the spill. I had thought that perhaps the Rudd fans who’d been so depressed after the June 2010 spill would have regained their equilibrium and be ready to get on with the job. Equally, I hoped that the Gillard supporters would accept that whether this year’s spill was right or wrong, warranted or not, restoring Rudd to the Prime Ministership has given the ALP a genuine opportunity to win the election and retain government.
The acceptance, the unity I was hoping for just isn’t evident. There is still pronounced ill-feeling, most of it aimed at Kevin Rudd. Those who supported Ms Gillard while Mr Rudd – in their opinion - destabilized the party and white-anted the leader refuse to forgive and forget. Some vow to boycott the ALP and vote Green. Others are still incoherent in their rage at what was done to our first female Prime Minister.
Perhaps we should take notice of how the Australian cricket team has behaved since their spill. South African-born coach Mickey Arthur was never well accepted by Australian cricket fans, so after a string of disappointing performances by the Aussies, Mr Arthur was sacked by Cricket Australia.
The Aussie fans were pleased to see the end of Mickey Arthur, particularly when he was replaced by Aussie bloke Darren Lehmann, better known to all as “Boof”. Boof doesn’t say much to the media. He gets results, and grotesque failure by the Aussie top and middle orders notwithstanding, we almost beat the Poms last weekend in the first Ashes test. No-one expected that.
Unlike politics, the cricket spill seemed to be surgically precise. Mickey was gone, Boof was in, and everyone was happy.
Except Dave Warner. And Mickey Arthur. And Michael Clarke and Shane Watson. First of all, Dave Warner, banished from the Australian team for two tests because of unacceptable off-field behaviour, admitted that his poor attitude and resulting booze-fuelled larks may have been a factor in the decision to give Mickey Arthur the boot. Very perceptive, Dave. Actions have consequences... but the coach failed to manage Dave's behaviour. I'm not making excuses for Dave Warner - he's old enough and experienced enough to know better - but when it became obvious that he had a problem, he should have been counselled and disciplined.
And now, Mickey Arthur is suing Cricket Australia for four million dollars, for wrongful dismissal. Now I don’t know what was in his contract, but if his employment was to coach the Australian team to victory, he failed in most of his objectives. If his contract included doing nothing to damage the reputation of the Australian cricket community, he failed on that measure as well as his team repeatedly made headlines for boozing, blueing, and failing to do their homework.
In his media statements, he has indicated that he was the hapless victim in a feud between Aussie Captain Michael Clarke and opener Shane Watson. Respected senior players like Brad Haddin are falling into line to support their team, denying any kind of contretemps between Pup and Watto. Boof, of course, has remained silent, as he should.
Whether there is or was any klnd of conflict between Pup and Watto is fascinating in light of Arthur’s claims. If there was no feud, Arthur is lying and looking for high profile scapegoats and a big payout. If there was a real feud, Arthur, as coach, should have intervened and managed the situation in whatever way was appropriate. In both cases, Arthur is wrong. I fail to see any "wrongful" in CA's dismissal of the former coach.
Mercifully, whatever had been going on within the Australian Cricket Team under Mickey Arthur is being dealt with, and team is behaving as a team (except for the regular batting catastrophes) and everyone, from fans to players to the Cricket Australia management group is united behind the bloke called Boof.
In the meantime, Labor supporters are still venting their bitterness all over social media. Julia Gillard isn't suing anyone for wrongful dismissal - she's got way too much class for that. In any case, if part of her role as parliamentary leader of the ALP was to lead the ALP to an election victory, she would have found herself soundly defeated. Another female Labor leader would be brought undone.
I understand that her supporters might abhor the way that Mr Rudd replaced Ms Gillard, but that’s done. My loathing is for the way she was treated while in the top job, but standing here at the boss's window, I can see that there was little option but to replace her. Continuing to focus energy on the spill appears as ALP disunity, and helps no-one. Ms Gillard's supporters need to move to a bigger window with a different view. It’s not Rudd versus Gillard that they should be seeing; it’s the Rudd versus the Coalition in the coming election and the view from that window is tinged with hope. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


If I had to take a guess, I’d say Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, his trusty Chief of Staff Peta Credlin and her husband, Liberal Party President Brian Loughnane are holed up under a bed somewhere, rocking back and forth and sucking on their thumbs. The unthinkable has happened – again.

First time around in 2010, they lost the election they were supposed to win, because Mr Abbott was so desperate that he scared off the crucial independents and couldn’t form a minority government. Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female Prime Minister.

But the Liberals were not defeated. They simply chose to ignore reality and spend the duration of the 43rd Parliament calling for an election, calling the members of the Government names, and creating the most negative political environment in living memory. With assistance from a largely sympathetic media, the Coalition came into the last three months of the electoral cycle as the unbackable favourite for a landslide victory. All they had to do was not fuck up and victory was theirs. Mr Abbott could be drinking shandies in the Lodge.

Complacency is never a sensible strategy.

Ruddmentum arrived and less than two weeks later, the Coalition’s election winning lead in the polls has evaporated to literally nothing. On current numbers, the election of September 14 looks to be as close as the 2010 election. Having said that, Mr Rudd has momentum on his side right now, and Mr Abbott is struggling to find a media strategy that works in this strange, post-spill world. Mr Abbott is, and always has been, a very effective Opposition Leader. Now that the game has changed, what can he do to regain impetus?

It seems that his strategy has barely changed in the two weeks since Mr Rudd regained the Prime Ministership. Despite no longer being the clear frontrunner, Mr Abbott is still trying to control the game. He is trying to force an election, which he’s been trying to do for the past three years. He’s trying to convince us that he can ‘turn the boats around’, despite the Indonesian government rejecting the policy. He’s stating that he did nothing wrong in the promotion of his book Battlelines, and yet repaid nine thousand dollars that he had claimed for travel expenses while promoting the book. He’s blaming the Carbon Tax for everything and promising to repeal it, without repealing the compensation or reverting to previous taxation arrangements. He’s supporting his copper-wire broadband programme, even though it’s inferior by every measure. Just look at his wishy-washy performance on 7:30 last night:

But for the first time in about three years, not everything is going Mr Abbott’s way. He is being challenged for refusing to appear on the more serious current affairs programmes, and being mocked (yes, by me) for refusing to debate Prime Minister Rudd outside the structures of a political campaign.
Abbott is also being challenged regarding a matter of $9400 in travel expenses which he may or may not have claimed while promoting his book. He has repaid the money…but denies any wrongdoing, and today, tried to blame the ALP for reigniting the issue. In fact, it was journalist Margo Kingston who campaigned hard to bring this issue to the attention of the mainstream media. The ALP was nowhere near it.

Mr Abbott’s biggest challenge is that his strategy for winning the election in September was based on three mainstays:

His opponent would be Julia Gillard
The Coalition would have a comfortable lead in the polls
He – and the media sympathetic to his cause – controlled the national agenda

The re-emergence of Kevin Rudd has knocked those pillars to the ground, and the Coalition strategy with it. Most damaging is the inability of Tony Abbott to continue to campaign in sloganistic notions. Against Kevin Rudd, a re-energised Labor front bench and a less sympathetic media, vague slogans and references to the “glory days” of John Howard’s government will make him look insubstantial and unprepared.

On the other hand, if he continues to avoid real debates and searching interviews, he will be perceived as weak and cowardly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Newmania: The 41%ers

On Friday October 7, 2011, Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, issued a media release to announce that Queensland MPs would receive a 2.5% pay rise, in line with the Queensland Government Wages policy. The base salary of a parliamentarian rose to $137,149 per annum. A few other random increases were also made, but these were small (less than 5%, and in some cases, the result of increased responsibility.) The Bligh Government, just months out from the election which ultimately devastated the Labor Party in Queensland, was unpopular. The 2011 pay rise prompted the usual questions about whether our politicians deserved this pay rise.

The magnitude of the raise in 2011 was around the same as a lot of people receive each year; it’s a “cost of living” increase, although these regular adjustments disappeared for all but the lucky few during the worst of the Global Financial Crisis.

Queensland is, as usual, a law unto itself. Just ask any one of our LNP state members and they’ll be only too happy to tell you that Queensland is broke, and can’t afford any of the “luxuries” we used to take for granted, like services for our disabled, older workers, LGBTI community, tenants, abused women and writers. Our besieged MPs are being forced to break election promises to reduce the cost of living because they can’t afford to fund them. There is to be no discretionary spending; the surplus is the only thing that matters.

Do not despair, Queenslanders. Not everything is out of reach.

In what Acting Premier Jeff Seeney is describing as “revenue neutral”, Queensland politicians will see their base salaries leap by 41.8%, from $137,149 to $194,481, making them the highest paid state politicians in Australia, a country which already pays its politicians more than almost any other country, excluding Japan and Italy. Premier Newman is on annual leave, conveniently avoiding the fallout from this appalling decision.

In fact, this salary increase puts Queensland politicians over the top in terms of their base salary. They now earn more than the median salary of professors, and business executives, twice as much as the median salary of corporate lawyers, project managers and family doctors, and almost five times more than the median wage for aged care workers, hairdressers and customer service representatives.

I’m pleased for the people of Queensland that the Acting Premier has declared this monster of a pay rise to be revenue neutral, and that he can cut electorate allowances and the like to fund this pay rise, but I’m not satisfied. If electoral allowances and party funding can be cut now to fund a pay rise of mammoth proportions, why can't they be cut to fund other, more justifiable programmes?

Last year, I was awarded a pay rise. My role had expanded, I’d gained experience and seniority, produced results and I’d studied to learn more and have my skills recognised. Before my pay rise could become a reality, my line manager and I had to assess my work and develop a new position description, which was then graded by our senior Human Resources Manager (using the Hay Grade Job Evaluation methodology). The HR Manager made a recommendation to my senior manager, based on the Hay Grade results, and the pay rise had to be signed off by a member of the executive group. In other words, my claim for a pay rise was investigated, evaluated and approved.

Where are the investigations and the evaluations that would justify this 41.8% pay increase for Queensland MPs?

Queensland MPs are of the opinion that they don’t need to justify this gift, because legally, their salaries are tied to the salaries of Federal MPs, and that the Queensland Government would be in breach of the law if it did not apply the proscribed increases.

In reality, this pay increase needs more justification than anything else the Newman Government has done. The voters are unhappy – today’s Newpoll results show that Labor is improving in the 2 Party Preferred calculations and King Campbell’s popularity is falling. Luckily for the LNP, Queensland Labor has neither the numbers nor the leader take advantage of the trend.

Nine News will report tonight that the first year alone of this pay increase is worth $6 million dollars. At an average salary of $82,000, (plus 40% built up costs) that’s over 50 full time jobs that could be funded. It’s money that could be directed to support the minority groups whose assistance has been cut. It’s hospital beds that could be reopened or a slightly less humiliating pay rise for our emergency workers.

Labor’s newest Queensland MP, Jackie Trad, has refused to accept the pay rise, requesting the Clerk of the Parliament not to process the increase.

"If this request cannot be met than I will ensure any wage increase beyond reinstatement of the electorate allowance be quarantined in a fund to support community projects in South Brisbane, particularly those that have lost funding under the Newman LNP Government."
How does your local MP feel about a 41% pay rise after slashing over 14,000 jobs and numerous services, while simultaneously fighting our critical state employees over interim 2-3% increases?

Contact your local MP via email and ask for justification: the address will be, or click here for the list of contact details for every Queensland Member of Parliament. Don’t forget to copy in the Premier.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Dada dada dada Duh, dada dada dada Duh, dada dada dada Duh Duh Duh Duh Daaaahh!

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has refused to debate Prime Minister Rudd in the Press Club until Mr Rudd names the date of the election, and then, he will debate within the context of a political campaign.

I call fowl. In fact, I call chicken. Just two days ago, former Prime Minister John Howard introduced Tony Abbott at an event in Melbourne. The event? It was a pseudo campaign launch, an Address to Victorian Federal Campaign Rally, complete with American style flag waving and banners. Unfortunately for Mr Abbott, the news media was more interested in the born-again Prime Minister, and Mr Abbott’s big media event ran a poor second.

Mr Abbott ended his address with the following call to action:

I say to the Australian people: we are a great people. You are a great people. We are a great country. There is nothing wrong with this country that wouldn't be improved by a change of government and our duty, our duty, every day between now and the election is to work to give that better government to the Australian people. That is our duty and we must pledge every fibre of our being to bring that about.
There is no doubt that that is a campaign speech. Therefore, if Mr Abbott is making campaign speeches, can we not just assume that the campaign has commenced, and start scheduling debates?
I can’t help but wonder why the Leader of the Opposition, whose party is still in a winning position in the polls, choose to avoid participating in the debates Mr Rudd has proposed. Isn’t this an opportunity for Mr Abbott to show off, to illustrate all those points he keeps making about the ALP Government’s financial mismanagement. Isn’t this an opportunity to wrest momentum back from the ALP?

While we’re talking debates, can we please adopt a format that means something? SkyNews Australia’s Town Hall Forums in Western Sydney are interesting, but as one politician follows the other, there’s no opportunity to see the two politicians debate a policy. The traditional Sunday night Channel 9 Debates, with Ray Martin and the Worm are almost as bad.

Let’s have a series of serious conversations between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, each with a topic to be decided on the night. The combatants have to speak to each other, answer each other’s questions and remain civil and respectful throughout. One moderator is there to ensure the conversation remains ‘on topic’ and doesn’t disintegrate into the kind of appalling behaviour we’ve seen in Question Time.

I think the Prime Minister would be willing to give it a go, but I doubt Tony Abbott would be in favour. In fact, he’d probably be happiest with no debates at all.

Dada dada dada Duh, dada dada dada Duh, dada dada dada Duh Duh Duh Duh Daaaahh!

And of course it’s Monday night, and with that, comes QandA. It’s 1050 days – or if you prefer, 2.87 years – since Tony Abbott appeared on QandA, despite what I’m sure is an open invitation. QandA rates well, and is a show which is considered to have gravitas.

I’m sure that the good people at QandA would offer Mr Abbott the same conditions as his last appearance, when he was the sole guest. Surely QandA without a panel to challenge what he says would be a perfect vehicle for Mr Abbott to display his charm, his engagement with the electorate and his knowledge of Coalition policy.

Should we be making plans to mark the third anniversary of Mr Abbott’s last appearance on QandA? Roast Chicken seems appropriate.

Dada dada dada Duh, dada dada dada Duh, dada dada dada Duh Duh Duh Duh Daaaahh!

If I had any interest at all in assisting Mr Abbott, I’d be telling him that he has to change his game plan. The ALP is within the MoE, and the momentum is with the left. Constant negativity is out of favour and the electorate wants more. Mr Rudd is ready.

What are you waiting for, Mr Abbott?