The New Australian

Proudly nearly Australian since 2010. "I'm not grumpy, the rest of the world is just unrealistically upbeat"

The New Australian - Proudly nearly Australian since 2010. "I'm not grumpy, the rest of the world is just unrealistically upbeat"

Glass ceiling, steel floor

Let’s be clear; this organ believes that there is no material reason why a woman’s career shouldn’t progress to the same heights as a similarly-competent and qualified man’s and, with equality of suitability should come equality of compensation.

But…..

There’s doing the right thing and then there’s doing completely the wrong thing for misguided reasons. Look at what quota systems did to South African rugby and cricket teams, for example.

 

Positive discrimination is still discrimination, the clue is in the name. In addition to discriminating against males, there’s a risk that organisations are also discriminating against profits.

 

I have witnessed, and described here, utter incompetency being treated with ridiculous amounts of forbearance simply due to the struggling staff member’s possession of a vagina. Similarly, in my current main client’s organisation there have been several senior management positions left vacant for extended periods due to the tacit requirement that they should be filled by a woman. Those of us working on a day rate do very nicely out of this as we can pick up interim gigs as a consequence.

 

However, in organisations where profit margins aren’t high and must be hard-won, this sort of thumbsucking tokenism is a luxury that cannot be afforded.

 

Speaking of luxuries that can’t be afforded, I personally find I really struggle to attend conferences. The cost in dollars of these events isn’t usually the issue, but justifying three days out of the office to listen to, probably, only one or two speakers who have something relevant and of value to me while hanging around listening to all the other pointless presentations is really difficult. I’ve signed up to one later this year but, looking back, that’s the first for four or five years.

In the meantime, I know of people who can somehow justify three days of every working year to go to the Gartner conference. Has the content changed that significantly in twelve months?

 

All that said, this looks like it’ll be a must-attend event, or so says our female CPO who may or may not also be speaking about her considerable success in the role*.

Post gender

After all, we are living in a post-gender economy. Who knew?

 

Seriously, three days to discuss the role vaginas play in buying stuff for organisations? Procurement isn’t my main area of expertise but, in Australia in the year 2015, is there really enough content to discuss the unique role women can play in procurement for three entire days?

 

*according to her subjective and personal analysis

 

 

 

More questions than answers

I passed the citizenship test today. The average IQ of both Britain and Australia is about to be raised by my switching of allegiance…..

The test is simplicity itself, simply choose “Don Bradman” or “Bowled underarm” as the answer to the sports questions and you’re halfway there already. Some of the more difficult questions threw me for a moment though, here’s a sample of the ones that I struggled with;

1. In this, the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, do Australians have freedom of speech?
a. Yes, we’re a tough bunch of hardy souls who know that sticks and stones may break our bones but names can never hurt us.
b. Yes, but freedom of speech is limited to not include threats of violence or incitement to violence.
c. The Racial Discrimination Act, Clause 18c.
2. If you choose to buy a property on a known flood plain, who picks up the bill when all your worldly possessions are swept down the Brisbane River to the ocean?
a. Suncorp.
b. You if you are daft enough to be uninsured.
c. Your parents.
d. The taxpayer.
3. Finish this well-known Australian motto; “from each according to his ability, to each according to his….”
a. School alumni.
b. Union contacts.
c. Bleating to the producer of A Current Affair.
d. Need.
4. According to the Australian version of the Reinheitsgebot, what are the only acceptable ingredients in beer?
a. Malt, Hops, water and yeast.
b. Malt, hops, refined sugar, water, yeast.
c. Malt, hops, refined sugar, carbon dioxide, water, yeast.
d. Malt, hops, refined sugar, carbon dioxide, artificial flavourings and preservatives, water, yeast.
5. At a general election, Australians vote to;
a. Elect their local MP to represent their interests.
b. Elect their local MP but also, tacitly, the leader of that party to be PM.
c. Give legitimacy for the subsequent corruption, incompetency, backstabbing, pursuit of personal interests and luxuriating on expenses of their local MP.
d. Draw a large penis.
6. Which country currently has legislation which discriminates against its population based on race?
a. South Africa.
b. Israel.
c. Japan.
d. Australia.

Somehow, I scraped over the line. Apparently, it’s not official until I’ve passed some character tests (no laughing at the back) and then sat out a further six months wait for the oath-swearing ceremony. In the meantime, to prove how serious I’m taking the process, I’ll be practising swearing my oaths on an almost hourly basis.

Advance Australia Fair (Work, Go, Dinkum).

Not berry good

It’s a wake-up call, apparently.

 

THE human infection of Hepatitis A through frozen berries from China and Chile has prompted calls for more stringent produce accreditation for imported fruits and vegetables. Last weekend Patties Foods recalled its Nanna’s Frozen Mixed Berries one kilogram product on advice from the Victorian Health Department over potential Hepatitis A contamination. At least 10 people – three in Victoria, five in Queensland and two in New South Wales – have so far become sick with Hepatitis A after eating Nanna’s frozen mixed berries. Nanna’s berries are packed in China and Chile. Consumers with concerns can call the Patties consumer hotline on 1800 650 069, between 7am and 9pm.

Listen Australians, I’ve seen your darling sons and daughters in action in various branches of the Walkabout in London at 1am and, frankly, what’s a bit of Hep A between “friends”? After a few rounds of two for a fiver snakebites, nobody seemed that bothered and the “if you’ve not pulled by midnight; go Kiwi” thing just reinforced it.

Anyway…. we digress.

Australian berries aren’t affected, of course…. according to the Executive Officer of The Australian Raspberries and Blackberries Association Raspberries and Blackberries Australia. In the words of Christine Keeler, “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?“.

The two articles linked above are both very clear that there is a problem with the processes and standards of the foreign competitors producers but there’s no such issue domestically. In fact, they go so far as to helpfully suggest additional restrictions and testing requirements are imposed on those competitors producers but hunt around both articles and see if you can see any description of the measures in place in Australia to prevent similar mishaps.

 

Nada.

 

Of course, there will be a whole range of measures, checks and balances in place to confirm true blue and red Aussie berries are safe for consumption, it just seems suspicious that the public relations guy omits to use this incident as a lever to compare and contrast for us consumers.

 

Obviously there’s a bit of queering the patch for those nasty foreign berry producers. We could mention bananas here, but that would be tempting the wrath of our Queen’sland publican friend……

Chuck Berry

“I was surprised to realise that most people didn’t think frozen berries were imported”.

 

Actually Jonathon Eccles, I think you’ll find most people don’t give a fig, especially when they see a price differential of a ratio of 3 to 1 (frozen vs fresh). If you’re holding the pursestrings of a family of little Aussie battlers, doin’ it tough, that’s the difference between a breakfast smoothie every day of the week versus every third day.

 

I’ve got no problem with applying health standards consistently across all suppliers but this smacks of the usual vested interests trying to hamstring overseas competition.

How did that work out for Holden and Ford, by the way?

 

 

 

Australia’s new export; mediocrity

This organ has previously made the observation that the competency of work colleagues in Australia correlates neatly to their country of birth and their overseas work experience.

Thus;

- Born overseas or born in Australia but has had a significant career in a major overseas metropolis – likely to be impressive operator. In coffee terms, double espresso.
- Born overseas but worked in a regional location or 2nd tier town – probably a bit of a struggler and a plodder. Nescafe instant, with not-quite-stirred granules still floating on the top.
- Born and worked only in Australia – watch out, not only are they likely to be highly incompetent but, in the worst crime known to humankind, they will not be self-aware enough to realise it. Hubristic failures, the lot of ‘em. In coffee terms, they will be like one of those expensive “cappuccinos” (plural, cappuccini, surely?) sold at a motorway service station that manages to resemble coffee only in name.

This pattern has played itself out enough times for there to be little doubt in my mind. The domestic “talent” is generally 2nd rate yet somehow blindly arrogant.

So how pleasing then to see that at least one of the domestically-grown and nurtured strugglers has left these shores and spread her own particular brand of entertainment elsewhere.

Witness; Australian-born leader of the UK Greens Party car-crashing her way through a radio interview.

I’m particularly interested in the half a million homes she’s going to build for just 5,400 quid each and whether or not they will still have Hapag Lloyd written on the sides?

Looking at her wiki entry, she’s been in politics since 2006 which, by my estimation, leaves her another five to ten year’s apprenticeship before she is ready to return back to the welcoming bosom of the Balmain Collective and entertain her mother country’s electorate with her raid on their wallets catastrophic global warming schtick.

There’s pretty much every shade of green in this rather fetching photo of her (well, I nearly fetched my breakfast up when I saw it) but, really, we all know the more appropriate colour is slightly further to the right of the visible spectrum.

Greenwpid-untitled12121015.jpg

Sorry, can you run that by me again?

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Some more Australian sportsmen have been caught up in a drugs scandal.

Of course, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to predict a non-salubrious future for someone with a name like “Karmichael Hunt“.

That’s two surnames, surely?

See also, Wendell Sailor, Campbell Newman, Hunter S. Thompson.

Perhaps Lance Armstrong should consider a switch to AFL if he fails in his attempt at rehabilitation in the notoriously drug-free sport of cycling?

Oh, Mrs. Mendicott what am I to do

I’ve only got three bullets and there’s four in Mötley Crüe?

image

Thank you Telstra for using my browsing history to identify the genre of music I like and targeting the adverts accordingly.

You might want to work on that algorithm some more however.

I would rather slam my cock in a drawer for two hours than go to a Mötley Crüe gig.

Now, if Joey Tempest could persuade the Europe boys to reform we might have a deal, however.

England confides that every man will do his duty

Last orders, innit.

We’re having a short break up the coast at the moment and couldn’t help but notice that there’s an awful lot of rules and regulations around where and when one can imbibe alcoholic drinks.

Exhibit A;

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Quite what the problem is with having a social beer on the street at 7am, I don’t know but rules are rules.

I think Exhibit B is most confusing though;

image

Now that’s a long time between drinks.

Neatly tying up this blog post’s title and the subject, did you know that Nelson’s body was preserved in a barrel of rum on the journey back from the Battle of Trafalgar?

That quiet moment at the top of the roller coaster

There is a vague but ultimately doomed hope that the comments section of this post won’t turn into a further discussion about the price of bananas as we’ve done that one to death not once but twice already.

 

JP Morgan issued some cracking charts in a briefing note recently, here’s two and a summary I’ve lifted from the Sydney Morning Herald Property Advertiser’s churnalism on the subject;

 

 

Overpaid and over here Paying through the arse

 

 

Mr Walters pinned the blame for poor non-mining investment on a number of areas:

  • “Persistently low and fragile business sentiment’, as reflected in the National Australian Bank and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry business surveys;
  • Recent setbacks for public investment. These included the recent dismissal of Queensland’s conservative state government, which had promised infrastructure spending funded by public asset sales. The Federal Government’s plans to subsidise state government infrastructure spending may also be in peril, the research note warned. Infrastructure is “creaking under the strain of rapid population growth,” the paper warned;
  • High business costs;
  • “Chronic reform inertia”, with the 2000 tax reforms – which introduced the GST – the last major enduring change. “Attempts at addressing climate change, further tax reform, asset sales to boost public infrastructure, and liberalising the industrial relations landscape either failed, or legislated measures were reversed by later governments”.
  • Rigid labour markets. “Australia now has, on key measures, more rigid labour markets than many competitors and punishingly high penalty rates.” Also, “Australia’s minimum wage is double that  in the US”.
  • Average wage earnings that in 2013 were 70 per cent above the global mean, although the recent depreciation of the Australian dollar had reduced that;

 

One can’t help wondering whether many Australians have ever heard of Dutch Disease? Certainly it must be a new concept to the media/political circle jerkers as none of the accepted mitigations (according to Wikipedia, caveat emptor lector*) to the problem have been attempted or barely even discussed;

  1. Sterilisation of the impact of the resources revenue on the currency by use of an overseas investment fund, or
  2. Encouraging saving and running a budget surplus, or
  3. Investing in education and infrastructure.

In fact, one could argue that having probably the most restrictive and prescriptive labour relations and complex minimum wage environments in the OECD or G20 has locked Australia into the economic equivalent of a burning building. Any flexibility to respond to the downturn J.P. Morgan are claiming is upon us has been hamstrung by industrial relations redolent of British Leyland, circa 1978.

It’s worth having a bit of a Fifty Shades of Grey scenario playing session with the information shown on those charts.

  • Scenario 1 – The global economy remains stagnant, the international currency devaluation game of the race to the bottom continues, demand for resources remains the same or reduces slightly.
  • Scenario 2 – The global economy tanks, probably following a Lehmans-type shock event (perm one from Grexit, Ukraine, Ireland winning the cricket world cup, etc.). Demand for resources goes through the floor and asset prices follow.
  • Scenario 3 – The global economy stops bouncing along in the doldrums, resource demand and prices improve to close to previous highs.
  • Scenario 4 – The global economy goes gangbusters, resources and asset prices soar.

Those scenarios suggest disinflation, deflation, inflation, high or hyperinflation, respectively.

My area of expertise isn’t economics as I have a real job that doesn’t involve pretending that predicting the impact of government fucked up policy has anything to do with free markets but it would seem to me that the first scenario is bad for Australia in a Japan in the 1990s sort of way, the second scenario is bad for Australia in an Ireland in 2009 sort of way, the third scenario is mildly benign for Australia but does nothing to insulate her from future shocks and the fourth scenario sees us becoming the new Saudi Arabia but with slightly fewer murderous jihadis.

I look forward to being disabused of my opinions in the comments section. Should I be buying camels or gold?

 

h/t JimmyJanks’ better attention during his classics education.

Farmers’ market

Granted, farming is probably the most jerrymandered “market” of them all, with governments frigging around with subsidies, tax breaks and grants at the drop of a farmer’s flat cap, but this article takes the idiocy to new heights.

Apparently, those picky Chinese investors refuse to buy Tasmanian dairy farms on the spurious and finicky basis that they are too expensive compared with other global choices. In fact, some properties have been sitting with a for sale sign for over a decade waiting for a potential buyer to realise what cracking value they are.

Clearly this is a buyer’s problem of not understanding real value, rather than the seller not understanding the reality of the market….

…..Chinese investors want very detailed financial information and are not interested in buying single farms.

“They definitely want more information than our Australian and New Zealand investors,” she said.

“They try to work out the profitability of a farm, how many cows can be run on the dairy platform area. They want to know milk solids, your costs and expenses on the dairy farm, right down to the grain.

“There’s just so much more information that’s required.

If only there were some historical precedent for this type of due diligence in the buying process, perhaps with a tailor-made phrase in an ancient language….

Caveat Emptor

Of course, if you were the Real Estate agent tasked with trying to flog these premium farms, it’s perhaps not a bright idea to infer that your potential customers are wrong;

“They like to work out roughly between $8000 and $9000 per cow, it’s not our $12,000 to $14,000 an acre,” she said.

“We’re talking about a whole different way of working out where they see the value of a property, and it goes down to that milking cow and how much that cow can provide the investors.

“It’s not realistic, because it depends on the farm. Some raise their young stock on the farms, others would agist off…irrigation infrastructure, rainfall, pasture growth.”

The article continues with the excuses too, blaming “Brand Tasmania”, the “crowded (milk) processing sector” and negative media coverage of Chinese investment.

How interesting then that the pachyderm dans la salle isn’t mentioned at all on that last bastion of Socialism, #theirABC……

If you’ve been trying to sell something for a decade and not managed to find a buyer, maybe the price is too high?

Just a thought.

 

 

(h/t AussiePride)

Super Tenants

We moved house this weekend. The bright students amongst you will spot that this move is outside the traditional annual cycle of renting that we’re in, the lease isn’t up until August.

However, last year Charlie went on a detailed research session looking at the public schools in the extended area around the Northern Beaches. Satisfied that she’d worked out which were the best primary and secondary schools, we then started looking for suitable rental properties in the area. You may recall that we’ve done the research and realised that, with a few caveats around parental engagement with the education process and quickly identifying areas of weakness and filling these with private tuition, private schools do not necessarily achieve better outcomes than well-performing public schools.

Of course, now that she’d found that holy grail of public schools, it left us with the slight problem of potentially breaking the lease and incurring the risk of paying for two properties until the previous one was re-let, which wasn’t likely to be in a hurry for reasons I’ll go into shortly.

But then, in a wonderful piece of serendipity, the current landlord fired his letting agents in a fit of pique. He instructed new agents and put the fear of God into them to be more diligent than the previous ones and, consequently, make a royal pain in the arse of themselves with his tenants; more frequent inspections, teeth-sucking at the “wear and tear” to the place and general inferences that we were trashing the place (we weren’t), etc.

To understand this change of tactic, you need to know an important piece of information; the place had only ever previously been let to tenants temporarily living in Sydney on corporate relocations. From what I gather from the neighbours, all the previous incumbents were childless couples with the peculiarly brilliant talent of spending their employer’s money like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

So it was obviously a bit of a shock to our ex-landlord’s reality to find himself with a quite expensive (ok, eye-wateringly expensive) property vacant for 5 months and, thanks to the internet, an informed renter making a cheeky offer against his asking rent. He took the offer but has clearly been seething about it since.

Back to the new overly-zealous letting agents….

Overweight bottle-blonde lady came round for an inspection a month or so ago and did the usual amateur dramatics of wiping fingers across surfaces and tut tutting at the cleanliness of the windows (the ones with a 20 metre drop underneath them that need abseiling equipment to clean). She then said the letting agent phrase equivalent to Mornington Crescent, “wear and tear“.

TNA: Wear and tear on what?

Divine’s Australian Sister: The appliances and the wooden floor.

TNA: But this is the first time you’ve visited the property.

DAS: Erm, yes?

TNA: And you don’t seem to be carrying the signed condition report.

DAS: Erm, no. The previous letting agent hasn’t sent that to us yet.

TNA: It’s just that, if I were an unreasonably rude person, I might suggest that you’re being unprofessional and making an, albeit pathetic, attempt to be deliberately provocative by coming here without a baseline condition report and claiming some subjective level of damage to the property.

DAS: Well, erm, we’ll say no more on the matter as long as you hoover up a bit.

 

Obviously there’s some new variables being chucked into the negotiation here (and everything in life is a negotiation; if you haven’t worked that out yet, you’re simply losing out on the deal). So I dropped the landlord a friendly email asking him what’s changed and is there anything he’d like to tell me? Oh, I may have also made some subtle references to the illegal and arguably unsafe work he’d personally undertaken earlier in the year….

Bless him, he didn’t have the guts to respond in person but instructed the letting agents to offer us a 21 day notice period with break fees waived.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what’s known as a win/win.

Well, apart from the fact that an acquaintance who happens to lease similarly-priced properties in the area told me that he’d not had a sniff of a corporate let for over 12 months. Which somewhat suggests that our ex-landlord is about to meet the reality of the market over the coming weeks and months.

Before we moved out, we had some of the more friendly neighbours over for drinks. Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for Mr. No Blacks, No Irish, No DHS, No non-Ex Pat Deals it would seem. Turns out he moved out of the place after his first wife left him….. for his daughter’s boyfriend. I imagine Christmas lunch is a tad awkward in that family. Probably best to go away on holiday, eh?

Anyway, true to the idiom, he responded to that external stimuli by buying himself a twentysomething year old wife from Vietnam, which is where he has subsequently made his home. Ah, but is he happy with his Richmond though?

The dearth of corporate lettings aside, he more than likely is, I’d guess; domestic chores, compliant sex and no lip.

Lastly, the other insight I recently got into the rental market of Sydney is that the ombudsman is ridiculously in favour of the the tenant in nearly every instance. The vast majority of disputes taken to the tribunal are found in favour of the renter, not the rentier, apparently.

But then it’s hardly surprising given that 95% of the evidence presented is visual (i.e. photographic evidence of the “before” and “after”) and, until recently, the equal opportunity employment legislation was taken to its ultimate zenith of ridiculousness by having this gentleman sitting, often as the sole judge, at the hearing.

Lastly, now that we’ve moved, you can share with us the view we’ve had for the previous year and a half.

The new one is better, believe it or not.

 

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“Ships Damage to the property? I see no ships damage to the property”

UPDATE: In hindsight, I think I was too subtle in that 2nd to last paragraph and very few of you have followed the link. Until recently, the NSW Tenancy Ombudsman was totally blind. Think that through for a moment and then laugh in the faces of the political correct crowd all day today.

Southern Europe just moved to the Pacific

Since 2007, Italy has seen five Prime Ministers come and go. The problem is that they have a bit of a basket case political system which results in unstable coalition governments, constantly changing power bases and, consequently, they’re a standing joke.

Let’s list those Prime Ministers, shall we;

2006 – 2008 Romano Prodi

2008 – 2011 Silvio Berlesconi

2011 – 2013 Mario Monti

2013 – 2014 Enrico Letta

2014 – Present Matteo Renzi

 

How fortunate, therefore, that here in Australia we have a stable and serious political landscape, the envy of the world;

1996 – 2007 John Howard

2007 – 2010 Kevin Rudd

2010 – 2013 Julia Gillard

2013 – 2014 Kevin Rudd

2014 – Present Tony Abbott

Oh, hang on…..

Banana Republic

You must be so proud of your “democracy”, Australia. That’s quite an achievement if you lose another Prime Minister this year.

Try not to think how much this costs in terms of stagnant government, wasted public expenditure, or massive post-office benefits.

Have another kool-aid caffè corretto and congratulate yourselves on your Southern European democratic maturity and stability……

Keep voting, Australians. It will make all the difference, I’m sure.

Never tear us apart?

Perhaps wider hope can rise from an individual tragedy?

From their beginnings as a band of average talent playing a uniquely Australian insipid white boy guitar funk, to having a couple of international hits, INXS have always been a bit of a joke lacking a punchline.

For a while, bemused observers thought that the end of the joke was imminent after one of the Oasis twins publicly humiliated the lead singist at an awards ceremony.

It looked as though that punchline had finally arrived though when the world learned that he’d wanked himself to death in a hotel room.

But no, in a career comeback more desperate than Kevin Rudd’s, the remaining members of the band (who, let’s face it, no-one could actually name) launched a cringeworthy reality TV show to find a replacement singist.

They then continued to tour to ever-dwindling audiences, effectively becoming a tribute band to themselves. “The Australian INXS”, in other words.

A year or so ago, reality looked as though it had finally caught up with the professional grievers and sympathy whores and they called it a day.

But no, like a supernatural adversary in a bollocks Brendan Fraser movie, they managed to rise again! A rather dull documentary about the glory year (ok, glory 18 months) was filmed and shown in Australia last year, resulting in interest for new concerts at RSL clubs all over the country.

But surely this has to be the final stanza?

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Please God, let there be no further comebacks from here.

You just know that, right now, somewhere in an agent’s office in Newtown, the greatest “creative” minds of a generation (well, 2nd greatest; the greatest got gigs in New York and London), are investigating Def Leppard prosthetic solutions, scripting fly on the wall documentaries about the next resurrection of the band or plotting another reality TV show about finding a replacement guitarist.

It is surely time that these strugglers and the public are put out of our collective misery.

Will no one rid us of this turbulent band?

How not to survive a downturn

The comments section of a previous post had a contribution from Nigeria’s favourite blogger which made me realise that I’d never fully articulated on this organ my conclusions as to why some organisations seem almost genetically programmed to fail. Or, if I had, I can’t find it by searching for any of the terms I think I would have used to describe it, so here it is (possibly again)…..

 

Having spent much of my career in the UK and Asia, I’ve lived in the corporate environment during two national recessions and several industry specific downturns. During this period, the clues have built up to the point where a mature hypothesis has emerged about how some companies react to the bad times in a way that practically guarantees that they are screwed in the long term. This is the Theory of Institutional Ineptitude ™.

 

Now, I’m not making a claim to an original thought here, it’s highly likely that someone has come up with this before, possibly as a spin-off from The Peter Principle, but I can’t find it in my dog-eared copy of that book.

 

The idea goes something like this;

 

In any large organisation there are basically three groups of staff; those who perform well, those who perform adequately and those who are a complete waste of carbon and water.

 

When a previously well-performing company hits hard times, for whatever internal or external reason, and the numbers just don’t add up any more, the executive management have to make some tough decisions. The first of these is to retrench a large section of the workforce.

 

Thinking smartly, they grab the HR department and grade the potential candidates by performance, making the worst-performing staff redundant. That’s a perfectly-reasonable strategy to follow. It’s their next idea that sows the seeds of disaster….

 

They freeze all pay rises and cancel bonuses for the remaining staff.

 

Those retained staff are likely to be the same people who populated our first two groups; the star performers and the adequate performers. Faced with an income that’s going to be declining against inflation, all those with marketable skills and experience toodle off to competitors for a pay rise. Speaking generally, the organisation is now left with the adequate performers only, having just trimmed the top and bottom from the organisation.

 

Of course, we can split this middle group of adequate performers into the same three groups again, but the star performers aren’t going to be anywhere near as good as the previous owners of that title. They get promoted nonetheless.

 

The chances are, the numbers still aren’t adding up to a good picture and another culling phase is required and pay is frozen yet again. Similarly, a few more of the marketable staff head off to better prospects elsewhere.

 

What this trend is reinforcing is a removal of the outliers, both positive and negative, driving the organisation to become a company made up of the middle rump of unremarkable staff. In fact, the more unremarkable a worker is, the more likely he or she is to not get fired and find a vacuum above them that they can fill simply by virtue of surviving.

 

 

If you want to see real life case studies of this theory in practice, have a look at Nat West (UK bank) from the early 1990s, Australia’s NBN from pretty much the first day it began and the GPS Alumni Sheltered Workshop Australian Rugby Union board.

 

Does Queen’sland need to borrow some fingers?

How long does it take to count some votes?

Democracy in Australia is a constant source of amusement. Firstly, uniquely in western democracies, Australians are required by law to vote yet are offered a “choice” of picking from union-backed socialists, corporate-backed socialists or lunatic independents. It’s unsurprising then, that cynics like our Brisbane correspondent, “BrisBen”, choose to deface their ballot paper.

But, in addition, one has to laugh at the actual process itself. Comparing elections in Australia with those held in other countries, suggests that there is considerable inefficiency in the process. My memories of election nights in the UK are of staying up until about 1.30am, at which point it’s fairly clear which way the result is going, and the final result is confirmed by the time I’d drunk my first coffee in the morning.

Up in somnambulant Queen’sland, however, “dese ting take time, maaaan“.

Yep, the election was Friday night (January 31st) and yet the electoral commission doesn’t think they’ll have completed the count much before February 10th. You’d think with all those extra fingers on their hands, Queen’slanders would be super quick at a simple counting exercise.

This election has also delivered some not insignificant amusement from the commentary it’s provoked from those paid to talk bollocks about politics in the media, and let’s face it, there’s bloody loads of “journalists” in Australia whose entire working lives are completely dedicated to speculating on who’s on the rise, who’s on the decline, leadership challenges, etc. Without the unstable political landscape in Australia, these people would be out of a job. Which is surely the definition of career parasite.

I don’t know what you do for a living, but that thought makes me feel infinitely satisfied about my career choice.

A quick skim across the talking heads on TV or in the newspaper columns would give one the impression that the previous incumbent party in Queen’sland has just been destroyed in the polls by the other party. Actually, it turns out that the losing party got 39 seats and the other lot got 44 seats. A party needs 45 to hold a majority, so the balance of power is with the lunatic independents. On verra.

And, in a self-perpetuating political journalist job-creation scheme, the “Queen’sland polls disaster” at state level is now informing the latest plan to unseat a sitting Prime Minister at the federal level.

Again.

Brilliant, isn’t it? A majority of those who didn’t spoil your ballot papers voted for the Prime Minister only a year and half ago (yes, yes, sure the system means you vote for the party not the leader, but if that’s really true, why do we get bombarded with leadership approval polls every week?) only to have that decision reversed for them by a bunch of backroom plotters.

As the black South Africans often joke, “we wanted freedom but, instead, we got democracy“.

Keep voting Australians, it’ll make the world of difference, I’m sure.

When a company fires its salesforce

….It’s time to short the stock.

If you’ve ever witnessed at close quarters a struggling company trying to turn itself around, you will know that there are few successful strategies but many guaranteed to result in failure. One absolutely certain to result in bankruptcy is to lay off the sales team.

It’s logical really; if you get rid of the main channel of new revenue, how do you expect the organisation to have a future? Yet, somehow, CEOs regularly fail to predict the obvious consequence that anyone with half brain could foresee. I’ve previously worked for two struggling companies where this disastrous idea was implemented. Both companies were eventually asset-stripped.

So consider the lunacy of the GPS Alumni Sheltered Workshop ARU board in removing the funding for the New South Wales junior development programme.

This has actually happened. As a consequence, the NSW Rugby Union have fired half of the team who previously regularly visited junior rugby clubs and trained the volunteer coaches in how to make rugby union a safe, fun and attractive sport to play.

In addition, to fund the remaining staff, they’ve slapped a levy (what a peculiarly Australian concept that seems to be, q.v. flood levy, bushfire levy, etc.) on players this season, resulting in registration charges increasing.

Of course, most families with boys playing rugby aren’t short of a few bob and won’t notice this or probably even care but that’s hardly the point is it? Participation in rugby union is going backwards in comparison with Aussie Rules and Wendyball and the demographic the ARU should be targeting are not the his and her BMW owners on the northern beaches of Sydney but those with a much lower level of disposable income living in the western suburbs.

It’s not as if rugby union in Australia was starting from a healthy base as this old infographic from 2011 shows;

image

The indication of a sport with a healthy future is a small inner circle (adult male players) in relation to the larger outer circle (all players). What this tells us is that rugby union in Australia is mainly played by old blokes. Just like lawn bowls.

Worse, in the not too distant future, rugby union will be a boutique sport played only in the private schools and the Australian Super XV teams will be made up of foreign players or those poached from Australian Rules Rugby rugby league. In effect, rugby union will become the Australian version of the Winchester Wall Game or Eton Fives.

Compare and contrast what’s going on in England as described at the end of this boring interview with Stuart Lancaster (I like boring coaches, by the way; it’s a good indicator of sober industriousness);

The RFU’s successful All Schools programme, partnered by CBRE the commercial property and real estate advisor, is now in its third year – 302 schools are now involved, linked to 140 community rugby clubs. The target is 400 new state secondary schools playing rugby by the time RWC 2015 gets underway and 750 by RWC 2019. Its cost is £10m and the RFU initial investment is £2m. Its patron is Prince Harry. To get involved in rugby go to http://www.englandrugby.com/my-rugby/ or follow @EnglandRugby

Here at Chez TNA we love our rugby but we’re coming to the sad conclusion that, should one of our boys show any level of talent for the game, they are going to have to be sent back to England to reach their full potential.

To a man with a hammer

The whole world looks like a nail.

I smashed my back on September 16th last year resulting in three traumatic nights in hospital where I realised that my recreational choices in the 1990s had built up a remarkable tolerance to a wide range of pharmaceuticals.

Later, we discovered I’d smashed the disc between L4 and L5, leaving disc material sitting on the nerve below. This resulted in me being immobile for a week, unable to sleep more than 3 hours at a time without recourse to two bottles of shiraz and a load of organic fair trade bush weed and having to walk with a stick until mid-December.

Many of my colleagues struggled to hide their pleasure (I’d say “schadenfreude” but it would be lost on them) at my deserved misfortune. After all, I operate in the work environment with the philosophy that “sympathy” is just a word found between “shit” and “syphilis” in the dictionary.

The surgeon I was referred to recommended, wait for it, surgery (didn’t see that one coming, did you). The surgery was booked for early December.

In the meantime, with an extraordinary amount of help and forbearance from the soon to be sainted significant other, Charlie, I stretched and mobilised and manipulated the major muscle groups to within an inch of their lives.

The week prior to the surgery, I felt my recovery was at a level where it didn’t justify the risk of general anesthetic and a stranger drilling into my spine, so I canceled it.

Today, I finally managed to run 5km pain free.

Ok, it was at a significantly slower pace than my previous standard but to get from where I was to today’s run in four months without surgery is remarkable, I reckon.

I’m back and those fuckers in the office are looking suitably nervous. How prescient of them. It’s going to be a fun year.

Charlie, my love, you’re a fucking genius.

Banana Republic

One doesn’t have to be a republican or a monarchist to appreciate Tony Abbott’s latest attempt to troll half the Australian population. As trolling goes, it’s right up there with Old Holborn.

 

Last week he gave Phil the Greek a knighthood. Which is hilarious if you think about it, as Phil has breakfast most mornings with the woman who hands them out. It’s a bit like when my kids get Charlie to buy me a birthday gift with money taken from my wallet for them to present to me.

 

The great thing about Australia is that there is very little that ever goes on of any consequence or threat, allowing vast swathes of the population, political class and media to focus their attention on the truly trivial and meaningless. The broadcast hours and column inches devoted to this new gong allocated to Phillip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg have been comforting in their confirmation that there’s not much else wrong with the world right now.

 

It’s the only explanation, otherwise how else can one explain a front page of a “serious” newspaper that is dying to tell us about the award along with important information about an advert to be shown during the Superbowl, Lara Bingle being a bit lardy, how to avoid buying a beach house if you don’t want one (erm, is the answer “don’t”?), some singer’s phone or email being hacked, a new Ghostbusters film and some guff about a dead bloke who invented a phone?

SMH

 

By the way, the tagline for the paper is “Independent. Always.” I wonder if anyone at the paper has ever thought about the fact that the full stop breaks the link between the adjective and the adverb thus diluting the permanence of the claim to independence? They were probably too busy wondering if they were brave enough to name Rolf Harris as the “82 year old Australian entertainer” arrested for sexual offences….

 

Anyway, as if the game was to out-compete with each other to show who was the most detached from reality, the Opposition leader, alleged rapist Bill Shorten, used the knighthood as an opportunity to renew the call for Australia to become a republic.

 

Now that I’ve submitted my citizenship application I’ve got a lot of sympathy for that idea, it makes a lot of sense in theory. The downside is that a republic would require the election, or worse, the appointment, of a head of state to ratify legislation and appoint governments following elections, etc.

 

Think that through for a moment. Now try to think of two or three candidates to be the inaugural President of Australia. Tricky, isn’t it? Australia’s not exactly crawling with elder statesmen or women renowned for their wisdom, wise counsel, gravitas and sober impartiality, is it?

 

Here’s my list of potential Australian El Presidentes;

 

  • Paul Hogan
  • Olivia Newton-John
  • Gerry Harvey
  • Gai Waterhouse
  • Germaine Greer
  • John Pilger
  • Barry Humphreys
  • Julian Burnside
  • Jeff Fatt
  • Angus Young

 

Who did you come up with?

No longer an ubervirgin

Following all the whining in the press from the vested interests and drunk stupid passengers who seem unable to cope with the concept of price rises during periods of high demand or low supply, I thought I’d sign up to Uber.

After all, any service that pisses off the owners of the taxi management cartel has got to be worth a try, just on principle.

On Friday evening I was down in Randwick with my sniper’s rifle, taking out anyone with a beard, pomade moustache and tattoo sleeve. As the daylight faded, my aim was wavering and the police had started to triangulate my location, so I called it a day.

There were no white cabs for hire coming past the road I was on so I had a look at the Uber application I’d downloaded and registered for the previous week.

Requesting the cab was simple; confirm on the map that my current location was the pick up point and then hit my home address (pre-configured) as the drop-off point.

Contrary to Jade Wilkes, there is an option then to get a fare estimate. For me, this was $41 plus tolls. That seemed fair enough and very competitive compared with similar taxi journeys I’ve previously taken from nearby.

Once the car has been requested, the allocated driver shows up as an icon on the map with an estimated time of arrival. In this case, it was 9 minutes away. The name and picture of the driver and a rating out of 5 was also shown (4.5 stars for Mr. Singh). He arrived on time.

We had a good chat in the car on the way home. Mr. Singh explained that he’d been driving with Uber for about a month since being made redundant from his job in IT. He’d previously driven regular taxis but stopped after a series of violent attacks. Uber feels safer for him because the customers aren’t anonymous and he gets to choose which journeys he accepts or rejects.

In addition, he feels less threat from robbery as the transaction is online and therefore there is no need to carry large amounts of cash. The only drivers he knows who don’t like Uber are the ones who prefer cash journeys to avoid paying tax. Mr. Singh has no problem with paying tax. I think that was our only point of disagreement.

He’d got more than a few opinions on Reg Kermode, the late owner of the licence to defraud corporations Cabcharge. Apparently, when it started, taxi drivers were given a couple of percentage points of every Cabcharge fare to incentivise its use. Once the payment system had become widely-used, that situation was reversed. That’s not to blame Mr. Kermode, he was just doing what anyone with a monopoly ought to do. It’s for precisely this reason that innovations like Uber are born; the one begets the other.

Mr. Singh also likes the flexibility Uber offers him; he described a regular day where he does the school run with his grandchildren and then taps his phone to log in to accept fares. Or doesn’t, depending on his mood.

We arrived home without incident and I thanked him and left the car without having to make any further transaction, it was all done automatically online.

One experience isn’t representative but I will certainly be using Uber again. It seems to be as safe as a taxi, cost-effective, convenient and transparent. The safety aspect is interesting; Uber has replaced an expensive taxpayer-funded registration and licencing process with a market solution. If a taxi driver behaves discourteously or worse he will immediately receive a poor rating which will be visible to potential customers prior to them using him.

What’s the equivalent sanction from the New South Wales taxi licencing authority? I can’t find it, but here’s the Victoria version. Good luck with that.

In addition, I’ll be having a conversation with my client’s Chief Procurement Officer on Tuesday suggesting that anyone who works in a metropolitan area should set up a company Uber account and not be issued with any more rip-off tickets Cabcharges. The Uber statement shows the date/time of each journey and the precise route taken. Let’s see how the knowledge of that visibility affects the corporate taxi bill…….

 

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