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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Will the fat cats turn?

The end result of the Fair Work Australia hearings last night was pretty much as predicted. Quantas has been told to get its planes back in the air and the unions told to go back to work. The two sides to the dispute have 21 days to resolve their differences although either side may apply for an extension.

What has not been resolved is the intractability and hypocrisy of a senior management regime that gleefully accepts obscenely large pay rises while essentially refusing to negotiate pay rises for staff. In the case of the pilots' union, they aren't even asking for a pay rise.

For the thousands of people stranded around the world by Alan Joyce's heavyhanded descision to ground the entire Quantas fleet, this is no doubt a good decision and I entirely empathise with them. I dare say I would have been one very unhappy camper if I had been one of those stranded.

There is however a significant point that Joyce has won. Under these orders, the unions no longer have the right to take industrial action which places the position of power firmly on the Joyce side of things. This despite the fact that Joyce's action on the weekend caused fair more disruption than any union industrial action of the past couple of months. While I would certainly not want to see a return to the bad old days when it seemed every other day some union or other was striking because there was too much butter on the sandwhiches or some similarly silly thing, the only power the working stiff really has is that of collective action. With that removed, their bargaining position immediately becomes that much weaker.

So far we have not heard any opinion from the institutional investors who hold such important blocs of shareholder votes. How are they responding to the damage that will surely be done to share prices in the wake of Joyce's actions on the weekend? Are they going to continue to back their fat cat mate or will they start turning on him?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

So much for unity

In the midst of this Quantas bru-ha-ha and the tragic deaths of four more Australian soldiers in Afghanistan (which I am leaving along – let the families grieve), another small event has gone virtually unnoticed. In the face of still-terrible approval ratings, a member of the Gillard government (apologies as I missed their name) has come out claiming Prime Minister Gillard has the full support of caucus and the party.

Now when did we hear that sort of blather before? Back when the Howard government was facing increasing public unrest, we tired of hearing statements like that about party unity under Howard. It seemed for a while there that any statement by that government to either parliament or the media had to include some reference to them being “a team.” Some two months before the November 2007 election, Joe Hockey vehemently declared on ABC radio (I happened to be listening at the time) that the party was 100% behind John Howard. Yet shortly after the election which not only saw the Howard government toppled but saw Howard lose his own formerly-blue ribbon seat, Hockey was quick to join the rush of former government ministers claiming they had not really supported Howard but had been telling him to stand down. So much for unity.

Are we now seeing a repeat within the Labor ranks?

The situations are of course quite different. Howard had a Menzies-esque autocratic hold on his government for 11 years. Gillard on the other hand only achieved her position through political assassination of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd and coming within a hair’s breadth of losing the subsequent election. In the circumstances, given how the approval ratings of Gillard and the government in general are rivalling those that were used as justification for Rudd’s removal.

I find it very hard to believe that the unity within the Labour caucus is any better than that which really lay behind Howard’s ‘team’.

Money, hypocrisy and airlines

This Quantas dispute has gotten so out of hand, it simply isn’t funny. And the root of it all is money.

We have a CEO, Allan Joyce, who demanded and received a $2 million dollar pay rise, an increase of some 71%. The total bill for senior executive and Board remunerations increases that passed through the recent Quantas shareholder Annual General Meeting is something like $38 million. I understand that there was considerable opposition to this on the floor of the meeting but it still passed. How? Through the votes from the institutional investors – that are controlled by yet more of the same fat cats.

It is one continual, ridiculous round of grossly over-paid executives all looking after each other at the expense of everyone else. Something has to be done but in all honesty I am not sure what the answer is. Small investors can scream as much as they like but they are still essentially powerless in these large corporations in the face of the large blocs of shares controlled by institutional concerns.

The job of CEO is to keep a company running properly. Yet it seems pretty much every level of the Quantas workforce has disputes with the Quantas management lead by Allan Joyce. In those circumstances it is hard to see how he and the rest of his management team could be considered to be doing his job well at all, let alone justifying a $38 million worth of pay rises.

In what at first glance may seem at first glance to be a knee-jerk reaction, on Saturday Joyce grounded the entire Quantas fleet around the world. But since then it has been reported that plans were in train to organise this late last week such as booking thousands of hotel rooms around the world for the passengers who were about to be stranded. Yet news of those intentions was kept away from concerns such as the Australian Stock Exchange, not to mention the poor sods of passengers who might have been able to make other arrangements.

Talk about heavy-handed overreaction. Are these the actions of a CEO justifying a $2 million pay rise? It should be further noted that the decision to ground the entire fleet was not in response to what had been done by the unions or what was being done, but supposedly because of what they might do.

Documentation has allegedly appeared that shows quite clearly that these plans were in place days ago. Quantas management has claimed that the date on the document in question was a clerical mistake, that there was no decision at all about grounding the fleet until Saturday morning.

Anyone prepared to take a bet that someone within the Quantas organisation will eventually come out and admit that there was no clerical error at all? That the date on the alleged document was quite correct i.e. that Joyce and co simply lied?

The government reaction to this escalation of the Quantas dispute has been to force all parties to appear before the Fair Work Australian commission. Prime Minister Gillard has publicly at least, refused to lay blame but instructed both parties to cease their industrial action and allow the conciliation processes under FWA to take place. This will be a major test of both that legislation and the Prime Ministers authority.

I suspect that Joyce may have now in fact over-played his hand. To continue the poker analogy, he has gone all in, expecting his opponent to fold, only for the other player to call his bet, along with other players joining the game.

It should be further noted that the earlier union industrial action was not an overnight whim. It was the product of lengthy yet failed attempts by the unions to bring the Joyce management to the negotiating table. The spin from Joyce and co about this all being the sole fault of the unions should be disregarded.

The biggest hypocrisy in this whole affair however comes from former Industrial Relations Minister in the Howard government, Peter Reith, who has come out condemning the Prime Minister for forcing Quantas and the unions to the FWA commission, claiming that government should never intervene in such affairs. What? Oh give me a break. This coming from the Minister who was directly involved in the waterfront dispute in the mid-1990s as part of his openly declared intention of breaking the unions. What incredible hypocrisy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time for another Popsicle Award

It's that time again folks. It's time for a Popsicle Award to acknowledge an idiot who only has a Popsicle stick keeping his ears apart.

Paul Moran, a budding alchemist in Northern Ireland, has just landed in gaol. Why? Because of his latest alchemical experiment. In true alchemist fashion, he was attempting to transmute something into gold. But rather than lead, he decided to try transmuting pooh. That's right, folks, he tried to turn his own crap into gold.

Apparently not blessed with an abundance of the alchemical tools of the trade, he attempted to achieve this transmutation on the heater in his living room.

Not surprisingly, the grand experiment failed, causing £3000 of damage and requiring the attendance of the local fire brigade. Moran has been imprisoned for three months for 'arson and endangering the lives of others.'

Now this one seems just too ridiculous to be true so here's the link to the Belfast Telegraph so you can read it for yourselves.

Congratulations, Paul Moran, on being awarded this latest Popsicle Award for only having a Popsicle stick keeping your ears apart.

I think I shall have to give up on my fledgling stand up comedy career. How the hell can I compete with real stuff like that?!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Flipping heck. And I think I deserve some sort of award for not being far more obscene with my language.

My life has gone on hold for this damn surgery to fix my aneurism. The date of the surgery was carefully selected to fit around other things including family commitments. I was supposed to be entering hospital on Wednesday, going under the knife on Thursday morning.

As I intended going down to stay with family to recuperate once I was able to travel, it seemed a good idea  to try and arrange for my next drug infusion for my Crohn's Disease to be undertaken down in Victoria, rather than having to travel back to Canberra just for that. So I called the gastroenterology department to speak to my specialist's offsider. When I explained why I wanted to make that arrangement, she was quite concerned because she did not think I was allowed to have surgery so soon after my last drug infusion. She said she would send an urgent message to my specialist as he was not in the office.

Not having heard anything about 4:45, I called back only to find that the gastro department had closed for the day. The switch operator, after I explained the problem, sent an urgent message to the gastro, asking him to call me. He called me several minutes later.

The upshot is that I cannot have my surgery for at least another four weeks because of the immune-suppression drug that I have as an infusion every eight weeks. With this in my system, should I get a post-surgery infection in the brain, seeing as it is brain surgery after all, it could well kill me.

Here's the thing. I have seen the surgeon twice. I saw his offsider, also a doctor, at the pre-surgery clinic a couple of weeks back. I made damned sure at every step of the way that they knew I was on this particular drug. Yet now they are claiming no knowledge of it at all.

My gastroenterologist was horrified that I was about to be operated on.

Does anybody in that hospital talk to each other? Do they ever read their own damned records? What else have they overlooked or forgotten?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Positively raining money!

Well golly gee whiz. It seems I am doing even better now courtesy of the United Nations Organization [sic]. I now have a deposit of $50,000 waiting for me, as a first installment of a total of $300,000 USD.

Apparently [my] funds were withdrawn by UN on [my] behalf based on the fact that [I was] subjected to too
many process that will make [me] spend more money before receiving [my] funds.

Golly gosh - what shall I spend all these spondoolicks on? All I have to do to collect is just hand over a great heap of personal identification information. And nobody would possibly want to do anything untoward with that, surely?

But it gets even better. A Mr Peter Wong claims he has 2.25 million to share with me. Presumably for being such a beaut bloke and all that. 

cough cough bullshit cough

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Popsicle Award

It has been quite a while since I awarded anyone one of my Popsicle Awards, to commemorate someone who only has a Popsicle stick keeping their ears apart.

I have just discovered a new angle on the infamous Nigerian scam that regularly infests our spam email. This one is telling me that I have been awarded a huge pile of money by both the Nigeria [sic] government and the World Bank to compensate me for past Nigerian scam activities! I have already been sent $10,000 as the first instalment and I have a total of $250,000 waiting for me. Or so they say.

It beggars belief that these sorts of things are still coming out.

On this occasion, I am awarding a dual Popsicle Award:
  • to the spammers for thinking I am that stupid to fall for that crap
  • to the idiots out there are who are stupid enough and greedy enough to fall for that shit.
Clearly there are still far too many people out there with only a Popsicle stick keeping their ears apart.

Hopefully an end at last

Even though he is long in his grave, Carl Williams is still in the news. The fellow prisoner who was charged with the killing of Williams has been found guilty of murder.

While I do not condone any murder, at the same time let us not forget just who Carl Williams was. He was a primary player in the gangland wars in Melbourne in the 1990s, spilling over into the new century. He ordered the deaths of many people who opposed him. Who knows how many more people died from consuming the drugs the Williams organisation was peddling? He flaunted the law for years.

The real measure of the character of Carl Williams came out in the incident that finally lead to him being thrown inside. Having acquired the services of a hitman to kill one of his opponents, Williams then tried to stiff the hitman, failing to pay him for the deed. The assassin get his own back by blowing the whistle, leading to the arrest and conviction of Williams at last.

I find it impossible to have any sympathy for Carl Williams whatsoever.

I am also still yet to find a satisfactory explanation for:
  • why the Victorian taxpayer was paying for Williams's daughter to attend private school; and
  • how, for someone who made all his money from criminal activities thus having no actual right to those monies, following his conviction and incarceration, there was still enough money in the estate of Williams to pay for a golden coffin of all things!

Clearly if Williams had survived his time in gaol, the money was still there from his drug dealing activities to allow him to live in luxury on his return to civvie street. What an absolute disgrace and indictment against our legal system that these monies were allowed to remain in his control.

Now that Williams's killer has been convicted, hopefully this will see the end of the media treating Williams and his ex-wife, Roberta, as celebrities.

The thievery of Solomon

In the state of Victoria at present, we are seeing an appalling example of how money talks.

Billionaire, Solomon Lew, was caught out illegally acquiring valuable beachfront property. Now were it an ordinary person like you or I, we would have had the book thrown at us and lost it all.

In the case of Lew, having not just broken the law to illegally acquire the property, he is now being allowed to legally contest being able to keep it. What other thieves are allowed to retain the goods they were caught stealing? Yet for some reason, Lew is being allowed to contest it and increasingly looks like getting away with it.

Premier Ted Ballieu, in the wake of Lew boasting that he has Ballieu in his pocket, has distanced himself from the entire thing. What a gutless stunt.

Politicians of all flavours have a nasty habit of turning a blind eye towards those who happen to be large contributors to the party coffers. Public interest in those cases comes a very distant second to party self-interest. And Lew is well known for throwing money at politicians.

Why is that the real decision makers in political parties, seem to so consistently put integrity away out of sight in the bottom drawer when it comes to the party getting looked after by some big money interest? "Oh - he gives us plenty of money so we will just pretend everything is OK."

Here is an open challenge to ALL political parties. Show some collective backbone. Stand up to be counted. Send a message to the Solomon Lew's of the world that enough is enough, that they are no longer 'special' cases allowed to flaunt laws, rules and simple morality. The Coalition and the Labour Party in the Victoria have a golden opportunity to do so by joining forces to put Lew out of business with his dodgy dealings.

Of course I am not so naive as to believe that the pollies will actually do anything. This sort of thing leads me again to despair about the human race. Are we even worth saving in the first place when warped morality is allowed run things to the detriment of everyone else?

Screechin' and cringin'

What on earth was Vanessa Amarosi doing?

Getting to sing the National Anthem at a major event is a pretty big gig. The total audience watching Vanessa Amarosi 'sing' Advance Australia Fair in the opening of the Grand Final of the Australian Football League at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, must have been up around the two million mark. And make no mistake - Amarosi can sing. But on this occasion, she screeched more like an angry Dickensian fishwife than anything else.

Here's a thought for you. How about trying Ricki-Lee Coulter next year? I am prepared to bet she would do a top job.

The other major 'entertainment' for the day was the appearance of Meatloaf. Yet again, the dreaded cultural cringe has reared its bloody ugly head. Yet again, it was deemed necessary to import someone for the occasion. Don't get me wrong - back in the day, Meatloaf ruled. Bat out of Hell is still one of my favourite albums. But that was more than thirty years ago for crying out loud. Are we  really incapable of finding good local talent to entertain on the big day? Do we always have to resort to importing old names from the past? And how often do these imports really do that good a job? Meatloaf didn't.

So again, I ask the question: why is it that for big events, we Australians still feel it necessary to resort to importing 'talent'. Why, after all these years, is the bloody cultural cringe still making its presence felt? It really is a sad case of affairs.