Saturday, February 28, 2004


After years and years of holiday-less grind, I’m taking off tomorrow morning – yay!

Posting for the week will be intermittent at best, with my net access depending on the kindness of strangers. As I’m absolutely no shrinking Blanche Dubois, this in effect means Internet cafes, in all their writing-unfriendly cacophonic sterility.

See you around March 7.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Retirement reforms and the grey ceiling

Treasurer Peter Costello’s long-overdue retirement and superannuation reforms are so underwhelming as to be a joke.

There is no change to the current tapering-off schedule, from retirement at age 55, to retirement at age 60 – to come into force between 2019 and 2024, when all but the very last boomers will have taken their money and ran with it. And I mean taken their money (although the idea of sole ownership implicit in “their” could be debated) – contrary to Ken Parish’s pessimism, there will be no fresh restrictions on lump sums, other than for those who wish to work (presumably part-time) past 55 and access some of their super.

In the last two days, Treasurer Costello’s corollary plan to encourage people to remain in the workforce for longer has been viewed with a much wider scepticism. In the process, an interesting side debate about the “grey ceiling” has emerged. Personally, I don’t think ageism (as in favouring younger workers over more meritorious older ones) is widespread – if anything, blatant ageism operates in the reverse direction. While these jobless former executive over-45s are real enough, the ratio decidendi for their predicament has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with the dumbing-down of Australia’s economy over the last two decades. As a highly-educated GenXer, I’m in exactly the same boat here:

"It's discrimination, we're 'too skilled' and 'too experienced' and that's a worry" (same URL)

The fact that Treasurer Costello thinks that there is an equilibrium, if not a surplus of jobs out there for skilled white-collar workers leads to some inadvertent comedy, resulting from over-stretched premises:

This idea that you are going to throw people on the scrap heap at 40 or 50 -- and there was a lot of that going on in the '70s and '80s -- that is wrong.

With the first half of the 70s being an era of full employment, it is Treasurer Costello who is wrong. In any case, when mass-retrenchments did take place later in this period, they were almost always of zero or low-skilled workers in rustbelt industries.

"Mature-age workers are very reliable; they tend not to have as many sick days," the Treasurer said. "You know, they don't go out to nightclubs and they generally get to work on time. They are people that are reliable and dependable. Now, they may not all want to work 40 or 50 hours, but they can do a bit." (same URL)

Being about to hit the Treasurer’s definition of "mature-age” (= 40) myself, I’m not sure how to take these comments. A gay man is never to old to go to nightclubs (believe me). So it seems that, as long as you turn up to work on time, you can feel, look and most of all, work like a piece of shit – in the Treasurer’s words, “do a bit” – and get away with it! But be careful here, kiddies – this rule only applies to those over 40. Which is just what I’ve long suspected, anyway.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Rehame rebuts “sweatshop" tag?

It now turns out that the grist going round a few months backs about media monitoring company Rehame was out by a long way – the pay sub-contractors apparently get is not the $7 an hour I suggested, but $4 an hour.

Peter Maher, Rehame’s owner, doesn’t directly deny this figure in a report in today’s Oz*. In any case, the union (MEAA) has the idea that Rehame’s sub-contractors should be getting $15-16 an hour. Subtracting the standard 20% premium for casual labour, this works out to $12 an hour as a normal employee (one with leave entitlements, etc). Say what?

The whole thing stinks, then and the union is being way half-arsed. If Rehame’s employees were NESB 50-somethings, the union would be mounting a hammer-and-tongs industrial campaign. But because they’re (mostly) GenX, highly literate uni graduates, the union apparently regards anything that pays more than the dole (which is $4.50 an hour, assuming a 40 hour “working” week) as a win for its constituents.

* Sheena Maclean, “Monitor rebuts sweatshop tag” The Australian “Media and Marketing” 26 February 2004 (no URL)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Gay marriage revisited

I was spot on when I wrote this a while back, with right-wing poof Andrew Sullivan penning this inelegant polemic in favour of gay marriage in yesterday's Oz.

I've gotta admit that I instinctively disagree with everything Sullivan writes anyway, but here he just takes the (almond-icing) cake:

The silent types in gay culture are now in the vanguard - the ones whose relationships are conducted away from the streets and the parades and the bars, in suburbs or small towns or residential neighbourhoods in big cities. Many have clearly decided that they do not need to wait any more for others to approve their relationships.

"The silent types", eh? Sounds suspiciously like the 10% only quota of "real" (=non-prancing) homosexuals that some nutcase Belgian cardinal has proposed.

And speaking of the Catholic Church, it strikes me that there is a very good argument for its being in the vanguard of gay marriage. Church doctrine, as I understand it, is that gay (the sexual orientation) is neither here not there, but gay sex (monogamous or otherwise) is definitely a sin. If two good (= celibate) Catholic poofs want their sweet little twin bed platonic love-fest blessed, I am at a loss as to why the Catholic Church is not racing to do so.

After all, the more imprimatur these Bert'n'Ernie couples get from officialdom, the less chance they will feel like taking to the streets and bars, so getting mixed up and mistaken for the other sort of homosexuals - the prancing variety (who think "celibacy" is what was stamped on the really, really good pill they had last night, although they couldn't be sure).

Monday, February 23, 2004

The strange career of Glen Oakley (BSc (Hons), DipEd, MBA, PhD)

Three aspects are striking about the rise, and then unravelling of the 49 y.o. Oakley's career.

First, that fictitious degrees alone - he claimed all the above qualifications, while possessing none - could have propelled a mortuary assistant into a series of six-figure salary office jobs. Unfortunately, none of the media reports reproduce, or give detail on surely the most interesting part of Oakley's CV - the job after (and so, presumably the breakthrough one) the mortician's assistant one. The most likely explanation here is found, obliquely, in only one report: Oakley's referees [in which year(s) is unstated] included former transport minister Carl Scully and former Sydney Olympics chief Sandy Hollway*.

Second, that Oakley's meteoric career rise imploded anything other than on the overnight pariah basis that one would expect - his undoing was thus remarkably less spectacular than his ascent, as the nine-month gap between these SMH reports on his demise suggests.

Finally, and related to my previous point, there is a peculiar ambiguity about how Oakley was exactly, finally sprung - with which current employer and/or going for what job, with who.

Robert Gottliebsen in today's Oz gives the due-diligence credit to toll-road operator Transurban (in fact, a board member personally), thus clearly snubbing the CV-checking processes of Oakley's named penultimate employer, the University of Newcastle (where Oakley was a "conjoint professor", whatever that is). But this account is not borne out by a report in the same newspaper* a few months earlier, in which University of Newcastle vice-chancellor, Roger Holmes (who has recently resigned after a separate scandal) claimed the honours for springing Oakley.

A third, but at least internally consistent version of Oakley's unmasking is given by the SMH. Oakley applied for a job as chief executive of NIB Health sometime in early 2001, and NIB's two (??) recruitment agencies sprung Oakley soon after, while doing routine qualification checks on him.

Embarassingly for more than one party, if the SMH version is correct, then even if University of Newcastle VC Roger Holmes did spring Oakley in 2002, it had nonetheless somehow employed a person, in a senior role, who had left his previous role following substantiated actions of criminal conduct. At best, Oakley was only "re-sprung". Ditto for Oakley's short-lived role in 2003 as general manager of Randwick City Council (same URL), only this time insert "University of Newcastle" as the guilty party. As to how NIB could have "forgot" to mention this to Newcastle Uni, and then Newcastle a year later return the favour to Randwick, when the presumed ordinary background checks - quite apart from qualification checks - were done is an interesting question. Again, I suspect, the explanation here most likely involves the influence of Oakley's referees, Carl Scully and Sandy Hollway.

* Megan Saunders and Dani Cooper "Judgment time for high-flying liar" The Australian December 04, 2003 (no URL)


Part II - The strange career of Glen Oakley (BbyBmr)

Lots of people and institutions seem to have been tarnished by their contact with Oakley. It is particularly regrettable that NIB, and then Newcastle Uni, saw fit to simply and silently "move on" Oakley - a technique perfected, of course, by the Catholic Church in its handling of complaints against paedophile priests from the 1960s to the 1980s (and perhaps later).

I don't want to labour this point, but more comparisons can be made between Oakley's career merry go-round and those of paedophile Catholic priests. Decisions seem to have been made solely in the interest of short-term damage control, with no regard or allowance being made for reparations to those affected by Oakley's fraud (it goes with saying that Oakley would have been an incompetent boss), nor for those who would inevitably become future victims, once the toxic Oakley had been handballed on.

Most of all, the way Oakley got away with it for so long - including for another two clear after plain criminal conduct was revealed - suggests a secret, quasi-institutional culture. With no actual institution super-arching over Oakley's diverse employers, the culprit here is obvious: Oakley must have been coddled and protected by his boomer age cohort. The names of his referees, Carl Scully and Sandy Hollway, speak volumes about the boomer jobs closed-shop.

Also looming large in the shame file here is journo Robert Gottliebsen. For whatever reason, Gottliebsen has either (i) done absolutely no research on Oakley, or (ii) made up the story of a Transurban board member's springing of Oakley**. Gottliebsen's journalistic ethics are nicely attested to by the fact that he has top-tier access to elite world "leadership" (= globalisation) events. Such access doesn't come cheap, or unconditionally, of course - which presumably explains why Gottliebsen recently came back from such a forum as a born-again PR evangelist for Wal-Mart (a firm with no business interests whatever in Australia, AFAIK).

By turning his columns into little more than narrowcast corporate name-dropping, Gottliebsen inevitably plays fast and loose with the truth - and common sense. Extrapolating the springing-of Oakley saga as about to ?trigger a boom in organisations checking the qualifications and other claims in CVs . . . [equivalent to] what Enron in the US and HIH in Australia have done to corporate governance?. Oh yeah? Gottliebsen then can't help but push his cute little theory past breaking point, when he poses that the new boom in checking will include verification of past salary. Excuse me? How on earth is one's past salary the business of a would-be employer, anyway?

** (24/02/04) No other media report on Oakley mentions the Transurban connection. An outside possibility here is that Transurban is poised to take over Randwick City Council. If so, such a scoop deserves banner headlines, and not the sotto voce treatment that Gottliebsen has presumably picked up in the corridors of Davos, et al.

Update 10 April 2004

Today’s Weekend Australian Magazine has a feature story on Oakley by Stuart Rintoul: “The great pretender” (no URL).

Rintoul’s piece does provide a few points of clarification on the details of Oakley’s career rise, but even introduces a few fresh jaw-droppers as it does so.

Oakley’s “breakthrough” role – the job after the mortician’s assistant one – is confirmed as regional manager, Hunter and North Coast Region, Waterways division of the Maritime Services Board NSW, from June 1987. Remarkably, this job was located in the same smallish city (pop 300, 000 or so) as Oakley’s previous morgue job. It is mind-boggling that Oakley’s Walter Mitty-ism wasn’t nipped in the bud at this stage; and all the more so considering that Oakley seems (the article is not clear on when his first marriage broke up) to have been married at the time of his incredible promotion. What on earth did his wife think was going on, when her husband suddenly got a five-fold (I’m guessing) salary increase? And if they were then already separated/divorced, wouldn’t Oakley’s wife/ex-wife have all-the-more taken a keen interest in her man’s financial affairs, especially considering (i) they both continued to live in the same smallish city, and (ii) they had two children together.

As for Oakley’s phalanx-of-boomer referees, there is a revealing quote from former Sydney Olympics chief Sandy Hollway, who apparently was never contacted to vouch for Oakley (so that’s the boomer secret, eh – put an A-list someone you hardly know down as a referee, and then pray no one calls your bluff). Hollway said:

I found him a likeable fellow, but I couldn’t say I really knew him at all, really”.

Quite - “Jolly good sort”, and all that. A person can found be “likeable”, before they have any actual attributes, like qualifications, or, ahem, honesty. I doubt that you’d find me pre-emptively “likeable”, Sandy Hollway – and I’ll take that as a compliment, you glib little twit.

As for who “sprung” Oakley – the main contenders for which were Transurban, the University of Newcastle, and NIB Health – Rintoul’s feature clarifies this. There were actually three, unrelated “springings”: by a UNSW academic on Transurban’s board (in September 2001), by NIB Health’s recruitment agency (in May 2002), and by an unnamed Newcastle businessman speaking into the ear of the University of Newcastle V-C (in October 2002).

Credit here must primarily be given to NIB Health’s recruitment agency Korn/Ferry, who sprung Oakley simply by doing standard checks. In contrast, the springing by the UNSW academic on Transurban’s board was a lucky fluke, with that academic having personally taught all the MBA students in the year for which Oakley claimed to have got his from UNSW. However, neither NIB Health and its recruitment agency, nor Transurban and its recruitment agency, saw fit to warn subsequent employers about Oakley, most notably the University of Newcastle. As I said in the main post, it is incredibly unlikely that these were not routinely contacted, as the incumbent or penultimate employer.

Newcastle University does deserve a special commendation for supreme incompetence, though – they employed a man who was claiming, inter alia, two fictitious degrees from that very same institution.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The state of the f-word

Reading an otherwise ho-hum John Birmingham Op Ed in the SMH, one thing caught my attention – the f-word; there in all its glory, or otherwise.

I had long thought that mainstream newspapers were one of the last few hold-outs, at least in Australia (the US is much more puritan), in prohibiting the f-word.

Doing a quick Google, it turns out that Birmingham is not being the pioneer that I thought he may have been. Searching against the SMH site reveals 42 discrete instances of “fuck” and 15 of “fucked”.

Interestingly (although this may be statistically biased by Fairfax articles dropping off the servers after a couple of years (a phenomenon which I’ve been previously been frustrated and perplexed by)), the oldest SMH use of the f-word in full was only in 2002.

By way of comparison, Melbourne’s The Age is prudish: “fucked” remains a virgin, with only itself for company, while “fuck”gets a mere five hits, four of which are from a concentrated period in mid-2003, with the remaining, last lonely “fuck” (isn't it always?) being found an online-only page.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

When a man is tired of Adelaide, he is tired of the dole

In some exciting news, I’ve got myself some work starting soon. It’s only casual (sessional academic), but it’s still a J-O-B, till mid-year at least.

Moving into imminent employment has already precipitated one quite radical step in my life of recent, lean'n'mean years. A second change, to do with the nature of this blog, is still inchoate. What is definitely happening is that I’m having a holiday very soon – before the job starts on 8 March. Holiday: like, flying on planes’n’stuff. Like going interstate. Like, something I haven’t done for years. Six whole days: a couple in Sydney – which will hopefully be at its pre-Mardi Gras ripest and sluttiest, and then off to Adelaide, to catch Writers Week, and any other Festival stuff which is free, or nearly so. The trip’s being financed through frequent flyer (or more accurately, credit card spending from years ago) points, together with a calculated lateness in this month's rent, but I figure a break – in both senses of the word – is a justified forward expense for me at the moment.

In terms of this blog, I sometimes never thought the day would come when I’d have to consider the whole blogging, employment and anonymity thing personally. Being on the dole not only gives one a lot more time to write, it also mandates, if not compels – especially under our current government and its increasingly farcical system of welfare handouts (a little to the unemployed, a lot to the jail warden corporations) – forthright criticism of one’s "employer".

As I wrote previously, using a blogging pseudonym (which I don’t, anyway), and never directly naming one’s employer offers flimsy protection, at best, from real-world employment repercussions. Of course, one doesn’t have to blog about one’s employment, but I suspect that doing so is going to be nearly irresistible for me, after I start the job, and the novelty really sets in (as it were). So we’ll see.

Friday, February 20, 2004

GenX faces rage of the revolting Ys

The views of Ryan Heath, a 23 y.o. UTS communications student, are a fascinating litmus test on the emerging divide between Gens X and Y – by date of birth, he nicely sits inside (but not by too far) my theorised Thatcher’s election (May 1979) demographic watershed.

Two years ago, Ryan wrote "Boomers face rage of the revolting Xs and Ys"* (no URL). As the title suggests, it is a stirring anti-boomer polemic, in which Gens X and Y were co-equal stakeholders.

Fast forward to the present, and Ryan’s views have changed rather remarkably:

We Challengers [= GenY] aren't going off in a huff like the hippie set nor are we about to enter a collective depression like Generation X.

Ouch! Leaving aside the ontological issue of how depression can be possibly be collective, it seems pretty clear that Ryan sees his age cohort as a very different crew from GenX.

I’ll grant him that in part, and in whole when it comes to histrionics:

We have more degrees and more experience of the real world than many MPs (same URL).

[Memo to Ryan – this is not a particularly persuasive line when uttered by a 23 y.o. uni student, who has been enrolled in the same course for at least the last four years.]

And then there’s his real-world naïveté – which would be almost cute, if he wasn’t shining his high beams into my fragile equilibrium in so doing:

I'm not interested in applying for a credit card from a company that discriminates against me because of my age, or a department store that thinks I move too often to be trusted with a store card (same URL).

Ahem – Ryan, dear: especially when it comes to 22% plus interest-rate store cards, I think you’ll find that the lenders are supremely uninterested in your frequency of moving domicile (or your age, for that matter). If you’re really that desirous of being on the receiving end of a red-hot usurious poker, here’s how it works. First, get your first card, which will usually require a job (that’s spelt J-O-B, as they say on Jerry Springer). I know that call centres suck, and all – but the beauty of credit is that you don’t need to keep the J-O-B for very long at all. Indeed, as soon as your first card’s approved, you can quit work without fear or adverse consequence. The beauty of the system, you see, is that as soon your first card’s maxxed-out, other card offerors will offer you their products, on a “pre-approved” (no checks made) basis. And as for that holy grail of yours – the store card – I’m pretty sure that once a check of your credit file is made (five cards and no defaults, because one can be used to pay off the other), getting this little icing-on-the-cake will be a cinch for you.

* Sydney Morning Herald, 20 [or 30] January 2002.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

John Howard’s policy failures

With the publication of The Howard Years (ed. Robert Manne), I thought I’d draw up my own Top Ten list here. With the top five, I am fairly obviously making a point – and one that, to his credit, John Quiggin addresses in the book (which I haven’t read), with an essay apparently on unemployment as an (unfashionably) current crisis. Not in my top ten (although it would be in my top fifty) is the Left’s perennial excuse-to-hate-Howard, asylum-seeker policy. As I’ve previously suggested, anyone who sees this issue – either way – as some kind of ennobling policy figurehead, is a simplistic fool.


1. Unemployment and the tax base#

2. Unemployment, housing affordability, and looming inter-generational conflict

3. Unemployment and higher ed policy##

4. Unemployment – mental health

5. Unemployment and the fizzgig economy (Job Network)

6. Public education (esp. how government high schools have become mass, cheap babysitters for teenage fuck-ups who don’t even want to be there, anyway)

7. Water allocation and salinity

8. Transport (esp. over-dependence on petroleum-powered private vehicles)

9. The environment* (urban/built)

10. The environment** (rural)

NOTE: all these policy failures are shared by Labor. Where differences exist (as in higher ed policy) they are either negligible in the bigger picture, or Labor’s policy is even bleaker (as in favouring high school retention at all costs).

# An unemployed person receives a $10k annual handout, but indirectly costs another $40k annually (est.), comprising $20k costs-of-institutionalisation (Job Network, etc) and $20k forgone income tax and GST

## The “knowledge economy” has become the call-centre economy for GenX uni graduates

* Other than water allocation

** Other than water allocation and salinity

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The commodification of childcare and workers’ rights

Why did two female childcare workers (“girls”) walk off the job at the dot of 6pm, (presumably) knowingly leaving a 14-month-old child locked in their workplace? I don’t know exactly, and I don’t condone what they did, but it sounds like they were mighty pissed-off with their management. A fair guess can be made that the two workers would receive no overtime for working past their scheduled finish. When coupled with the near-certainty that the workers were being paid the minimum wage (about $13/hour, assuming they were 21 or older), the extremity of their actions can at least be understood on a rational level.

Working in the call centre of a big-four bank a few years ago, I was in an analogous situation. My rostered hours ended at 8pm, but if I was stuck on a call that began before this time, I was bound to see it out, however long this may take, and with no overtime payable. Needless to say, the pay and general conditions were bad, in any event. Fortunately for me, after getting “stuck” a couple of times early on in the job, I invented some strategies to stop this from ever happening again. My motivation here wasn’t so much that I had to be anywhere urgently after knock-off, but rather that my employers were scumsuckers anyway, and I owed them nothing that I wasn’t paid for.

Such an attitude could well have been in the minds of the two childcare workers, I suspect. Their workplace was in the process of being taken-over by a Brisbane-based, for-profit conglomerate (with strong Liberal Party connections); most likely meaning an insulting series of little cuts to their general employment conditions was being implemented. For the two workers, going home “on the dot” obviously couldn’t be as relatively easily ensured as for me as a call centre worker (“accidentally” hanging-up was a last resort).

Ultimately, the rap here should thus be taken by those who forced the two workers into taking such drastic action – the outgoing owners (who could be presumed to be making a tidy profit by on-selling their staff and young clients as chattels, more or less), as well as the new owners (whose commercial foray into a industry based on staff goodwill should never have happened in the first place).

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Fear of Driving

It’s a nice example of one of those modern faux-paradoxes – which turn out to be a yin/yang balance thing, after all – that our ailment-of-the times, “road rage” has been hogging the four-wheeled epidemiological limelight. Also a widespread disease, apparently, is “fear of driving”.

Until this morning, I had thought that this condition (i) had no particular name, which was largely because (ii) I thought that my mum was the world’s only afflicted person. My mum, who lives in a country town, refuses to drive to/in Melbourne, and also refuses to parallel park anywhere, anytime. I have to admit that I had never thought of her condition as being particularly debilitating; public transport can have its reliability quirks, but it also provides my garrulous mum with the perfect opportunity to start-up a conversation with an unsuspecting stranger. As for ending-up parking blocks away, due to all the closer spots having less than five metres of clearance (either side), I’m sure there’s some silver lining there, too.

I can reassure any concerned readers out there – who don’t know me, and so haven’t been in a car with me – that my mum’s condition is definitely not genetically transmitted (that is, unless, at 39 I’m an undiagnosed latent carrier). IMO, road rage is merely the inevitable consequence of giving licenses willy-nilly to idiots who (i) don’t regard it as their highest public duty to drive at the maximum legal speed at all times, and (ii) don’t share my sincere hope of being eulogised mainly for my prowess as the gun who could reverse-park into a spot with 12 inches of clearance either side (true story).

One place I would be nervous behind the wheel at, though, is the Frankston Shopping Centre car park. From the photo (same URL), it looks like a wall-to-wall home for souped-up and spoilered ex-Mad Max props. And given that Frankston is also where common road rage seems to easily turn into a fight-to-the-death melee, perhaps my mum and the pre-“cure” Tracy Ash don’t have a wonky wheel in their shopping trolley, after all.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Private schools and the AEU’s TV ad campaign

I was dubious when I first heard about the ad campaign; fearing that it may backfire on the union. To date, though, it seems to be working a treat – Brendan Nelson is foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, and Association of Independent Schools of NSW boss, Terry Chapman does a nice line in self-righteous indignation:

He said if Commonwealth and state contributions were combined "you would find the high fee school quoted [in the ad] would be receiving about 25 to 30 per cent of the funding to the state school.

Okay, Terry – let’s talk about the combined Commonwealth and state contributions. Total per capita private school funding is inexorably approaching parity with per capita government school funding. This is a disgrace, purely and utterly.

See also: “Private schools as queue jumping

Friday, February 13, 2004

Australian MPs' superannuation

There is no doubt that the Commonwealth MPs superannuation scheme is ridiculously generous - is (and will be) I emphasize; not "was".

By quarantining ("grandfathering") all current MPs from any adverse change, PM John Howard has introduced a drastic distortion into the employment market for incoming (= GenX, of course) MPs. Let's be clear about the magnitude of the change: it's about a 90% reduction.

This bodes ill for the future, but not because it is particularly going to put off talented individuals from going into politics in the future (I don't believe it will; MPs are still very well-paid in comparison to the rest of the public sector). Rather, it is the crassest sort of law-making and fiscal allocation that concerns me - this is stealing from the future in order to fund the (unaffordable and un-earned) high-life being lived by those very same persons who have just supposedly made a responsible decision. Guess what? If it doesn't hurt you, then it's not "responsible", a priori.

People can bleat about retrospectivity when it comes to making changes here, but GenX has already been "retrospectively" shafted on at least two major accounts. HECS fees were introduced in early 1989, after only a few months' notice - students mid-way through courses were explicitly NOT grandfathered, despite their having commenced free uni studies in good faith. Similarly, but this time also affecting the last baby boomers (though to a lesser degree, naturally), the age for accessing super was arbitrarily raised a few years ago for those born between July 1960 and June 1964, in a stepped age-taper from 56 to 59 (and 60 for all those born after June 1964).

If access to super at 55 is anomalous in the present day (and I firmly believe it is), to put-off the operational tightening of this for thirty-odd years is gutless and myopic politics. It also inflames inter-generational tensions. People's retirement plans should not be subject to major, last minute upsets - which is the reason why today no one should be accessing their super prior to the age of 60; six years (not 30!) is, and was, a fair and reasonable time for a five-stepped age-taper to be brought in. Ditto for our MPs - if the changes don't taper in soon, and steeply, they are an abegnation of sound policy, and a shouted-out-loud message of "fuck you" to later generations.

Update 14 February 2004

The inter-generational inequity of this just gets worse. If MPs' salaries indeed rise to compensate for the superannuation haircut - and this rise is across the board - then current MPs will be exponentially better-off (remembering that their existing super scheme ties retirement benefits to a percentage of their wage at retirement date).

Justifying my opinion/hunch that the rules should have been changed by PM Howard (i) early in his reign, and (ii) to cover sitting MPs as well, is some info in today's Oz*: the Australian Government Actuary noted the trend towards younger-at-election and younger-at-"retiring" MPs in a March 1997 report.

In other words (allowing a decade or so for a demographic trend to percolate into something "official"), the rot here set-in in the 80s - when, possibly barring a tiny handful of early 20s MPs, it was exclusively baby boomers who then composed the "young" charging towards an easy life on the public teat.

Typically, "The 7:30 Report" - a boomer mouthpiece par excellence - wilfully miscalculates the demographics:

HEATHER EWART (Host): There's quite a team of 30 and 40 somethings in the Parliament right now who'd been eligible for hefty payouts if they lose the next election.

NICK ECONOMU (sic) (Expert/talking head): The superannuation scheme was originally formulated at a time when people went into politics quite late in their life, usually having worked in some other profession or doing some other job, and went into Parliament at a much older age. These days politicians are much younger they seem to be going into politics as a career

Talking of "30 and 40 somethings" as if they were, in 2004, remotely cognate should be a dead giveaway, of course. But still, something jars about Nick E's "these days" pontification. Guess what, Nick? The 80s are over, and it's now actually okay to say you're doing something for a career (during the 80s, of course, "careers" were strictly for merchant bankers). Oh, and careers back then were also for the 99% of baby boomers who, during that decade, pretended that they were just pfaffing about, even as they started to seriously hoard houses, jobs, and their tax-lite super.

* George Megalogenis "O'Chee legacy for Latham" The Australian 14 February 2004 (no URL)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Builder’s-labourer-ploitation TV

Melbourne TV critic Ross Warneke is one of those people who is repeatedly able to get things 100% dead wrong. Like his opinion of Ten’s “CrashBurn” (1993) for example. Last week, he was blithely (or is he just a publicist’s whore?) predicting the ratings success of “The HotHouse” (also on Ten).

I assume that Warneke’s deadline was at least one-and-a-half days before his Wednesday midnight going to press, thus giving him ample time to digest Monday night’s (show premiere) ratings figures. For whatever reason, he ignored the abundant writing on the wall here – and even if he thought that one night’s ratings were all a bit too summary, he could have at least acknowledged that on the same “The HotHouse”-premiere Monday, the show’s executive producer and co-executive producer, Eric Dwyer both quit the show. The best Warneke could do however, was to pen this belated and prolix mea culpa, which went to press last night.

That “The HotHouse” is a dog is indisputable. Its first core problem (which Warneke naturally misses) is that it lacks a format – aka the thing that reality TV (or “unscripted drama”, if you prefer) has in place of a script. Simply piling white trash, two-by-two, into caravans in an outer suburb of Brisbane, and making them work like navvies is NOT a format. Similarly, conflict (and the abundance thereof) does not equal character.

Although Jonas at 85 George Street seems to take a similarly dim view of “The HotHouse” and “The Resort” (which premiered last night, on Ten again), I’m willing to go out on a limb and say “The Resort” looks a whole lot better than its stable-mate. I share Jonas’s concerns about builder’s-labourer reality TV (invariably “employing” under-40’s only) being prima facie exploitative, and, for this reason, “The Resort” also appeals to me on ethical grounds, certainly in comparison. All the contestants seem to be going for in this show is a 3-month contract, managerial job (albeit with a slice of the profits thrown in) – compared with the highly-dubious accounting assumptions behind “The HotHouse’s” “guaranteed $2 million prize.” In other words, the pissier the prize, the more the show’s contestants will be looking to find value elsewhere – which is presumably the reason ex AFL-player (and therefore minimum B-celebrity) and qualified journo* Aaron Lord has fronted-up for “The Resort”.

As to what exactly is the “The Resort’s” format, I am not sure yet (I doubt that the show’s producers are, either). One thing which – very surprisingly, IMO – worked last night was show host Jon Stevens playing a sort of agent provocateur role; a character semi-“in” the drama, as well as being the obligatory set of shiny teeth giving anthropologist-style omniscient voiceovers to camera. It’s a lot more sophisticated than months-old footage of “The HotHouse’s” host Erika reading editorial summations from her autocue.

This lack of real-time awareness in “The HotHouse” is the show’s other core problem. With everything now being “in the box” (apart from, presumably, the clinching finale between the final two couples), the show is now both an editorial nightmare for Ten to try to speed-up as a ratings salvager, and an already visibly-stale offering to the viewers. Whatever Ten chooses to do here, a ground-up re-shoot surely can’t be an option, despite what journo Amanda “Evict them all” Meade appears to suggest.

Update 19 February 2004

“The HotHouse” is NOT “in the can” – it is, more or less, real-time. In saying that it was not real-time, above, I was relying on this Daily Telegraph report, which referred to filming being finished just before the show’s broadcast commenced.

* Not to mention an insanely-hunky man-magnet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Bankers are determined to have their full pound of flesh . . .

. . . while accountants have accelerated depreciation of the groin.

But “macho” lawyers and miners? I can see a few hard hats being thrown out of joint on this one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Shattered Glass - a review

This is an unmistakably odd film; I left it feeling that I was watching an advertisement for something (I have no idea for what, although the fish-out-of-water presence of Tom Cruise in the credits, as EP of an arthouse flick, does tend to set the conspiracy train of thought off in one particular direction).

Shattered Glass is also a very difficult film to write a non-spoiling review of (i.e. stop reading now, if you’re concerned with possible plot spoilage). In some ways, it works as a thriller, but in being based on an apparently real-life story from 1998, a fair few in the audience (tho’ not me) laughed disconcertingly at various plot points; presumably because they already knew what was about to happen.

For me, the most interesting facet to the story was the extreme youth (average age 26) of the staff writers at The New Republic magazine. As a GenX Australian writer, I find it almost incomprehensible that my American counterparts get/got such good jobs so young (i.e while the boomers are still in charge). While the TNR’s journo characters oft make the point that they are not well-paid relatively, this seems like skiting - their Australian equivalents (I’m talking the top students from the best unis) would consider themselves lucky to get badly-paid media-monitoring work or some-such; and certainly not reasonably hope to be writing feature articles for a well-regarded publication while still aged in their 20s.

If the film’s “ad” is meant to be a cautionary tale about placing too much trust with, and expectations on whizz-kid employees, it misses its mark by miles. The protagonist was far-less a fuck-up than Jayson Blair (a plagiarist as well as confabulator, and an especially malicious example of the latter). As well, the protagonist’s laboured unmasking - played out as a scoop by a rival publication, but in fact requiring nothing more than a basic Internet search and a few phone calls (i.e. these days, any blogger could have done it, and hopefully would have) - begs the question: Is America’s intellectual elite asleep at the wheel? Or does no one (i) read The New Republic, or (ii) care, unless or until someone makes a movie about it, with their own good selves being played by [insert name of hot young Hollywood actor]?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Thought for the day

As John Donne might have said, “No man is a one-man band, but no one should be more than a one-band man”.

Thinking behind thought for the day

“Side projects” are all the go among big-name musos these days. Talk about having one’s cake, and eating it too - you’ve got the rest of your band waiting patiently while you go off to record/gig with similar others. Note that bass players never seem to go off to do side projects; presumably because an all-bass player band would offend the laws of physics, taste, or something else.

The really offensive thing about side project bands, though, is their resemblance to boy bands. Both are inherently manufactured groupings, and it is a fair bet that the lecherous, middle-aged producer invariably behind a boy band has an approximate counterpart in the person who brings the oh-so-creative side project together.

Please don’t think that I am being a musical prude here. Musos are free to form and disband bands as often as they want. But if you’re going to do it on the side, you owe it to the rest of the band to invite them in - or, if not, to call it a day.

A group dynamic cannot be cryogenically frozen, for resuscitation at a later date. If PM John Howard wants an issue to connect him with the Yoof, he should ditch the Sacred Institution of Marriage and replace it with the Sacred Bond of The Band.

Dedicated to no one in particular on this eighth day of February 2004. Happy St Kilda Festival, everyone. Let the clans gather, and rock the commons!

Friday, February 06, 2004

What does Kerrie-Lea Menzies do for a living?

KLM is the person who had her moment of fame on Wednesday, when the Mark Latham tour bus rolled into her home town, and she was caught on camera giving the Labor leader a hard time, for being - of all things - "a school teacher . . . from an upper middle-class situation".

From these words, and from the footage of KLM's drawn countenance, you would safely assume that she was (i) poorly educated and/or has a learning disability, and (ii) on welfare. The Age reported nothing that might contradict (or confirm) such assumptions, while the SMH was superbly neutral in calling her a "community activist"

On the other hand, the News Ltd papers had a field day when it came to KLM's credentials and/or occupation. She was called, variously, a "battler" (try to guess which paper before you click on this link!), a "human resources and recruitment manager"* (again, try to guess), and a "youth worker".

In today's Australian**, the truth behind these wildly divergent (or is it just me?) descriptions emerged. KLM is indeed currently unemployed and "a local firebrand" (I still prefer the SMH's original description, though). As to KLM's other, grander-sounding hats, it turns out that she was formerly a "case manager at a job centre".

Well, I'd be angry too, KLM, if I'd lost my sweet little middle-class job in the Welfare Coercion Industry. Or at least I think I would - surely the only reason you were remotely eligible to get such a cushy (if temporary) sinecure was that you are, at 44 y.o., a boomer.

* Christine Jackman "Kerrie-lea gives Latham faceful of roar democracy"
The Australian 5 February 2004 (no URL)

** Drew Warne-Smith "'Kick in the shins' by mother brings passion to backwater"
The Australian 6 February 2004 (no URL)


Pakistan and nuclear proliferation

Recent reporting of the activities of Pakistan's Father of The Bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has almost universally overlooked one striking fact - on how Pakistan got The Bomb in the first place.

Khan was convicted in 1983 by a Netherlands court for stealing nuclear secrets. This conviction was later overturned on a technicality, according to this American report, and just "overturned" according to the BBC. Sadly, I am not inclined to follow the (once-authoritative) BBC version on this one - an acquittal is an acquittal is an acquittal, period - in most cases in the criminal law, but when you're talking about The Bomb, every nuance counts.

Khan's criminality means that no one - and least of all, the West - should be surprised that he has been peddling N-death, apparently to every shitbox country in the world that wanted it.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, didn't refer to Khan (or Pakistan) by name when he said in 2003 that, while Iraq was contained, the rest of the world had turned into a "Wal-Mart of private-sector proliferation".

If ElBaradei's analogy is correct, it is at least heartening that Khan has been offering The Bomb to third-world dictatorships at Wal-Mart-style low, low prices (not to mention the missile casings presumably being kept shiny and clean by Wal-Mart-style bonded serfs). If The Bomb turns out to be of Wal-Mart (= Made in China) quality as well, the West may have the last laugh, after all.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Can commentators at least get GenX's ages right?

As I've previously blogged, IMO GenX was born between 23 November 1963 (the day after JFK was shot) and 3 May 1979 (the day before Margaret Thatcher became UK PM) ? the two book-ends of the end of the Post-War Dream (the Dream needed two ends, because it recrudesced spectacularly around 1968). Actuarial-minded folks can argue about these exact dates being arbitrary (which they are), but, as (I think) I also have previously observed, they slot in nicely to that other recrudescence; this time of the Summer of Love (and optimism).

GenX had its time in the sun in the post Cold-War years from 1989 to April 1994, when Kurt Cobain died, thereby symbolising the end of our generation?s ever-so-brief analogue of the Post-War Dream. (Actually, it was more like the Post-Recession Dream, and it took place, with unconscious GenX irony, during what was (1990-1992) supposedly the worst recession since the 1930s ? the irony being that GenX have always lived with recession. I, for one, didn?t find 1990-1992 worse than any other time; unemployment has always been high, and a presence in my life.) Unlike the 1968rs, we 1992rs weren?t particularly hung up on drugs ? we took them, but we hardly expected them to change our lives, much less the world. We also were far from explicitly (?never trust anyone over . . .?) ageist ? it was only after 1994 that ?baby boomer? began to filter through as a pejorative term.

Anyway, my point here is that, with this year GenX now being in an incredibly neat age range, of 25-40, the least thing commentators could do is to get it right, or even approximately so.

Doofus number 1: Ian Harper, of the Melbourne Business School, who not only associates GenX with the under-30s* but also (seemingly; I have not read his report) ignores the unconscionable impact the lifetime ratings system for private health insurance does already have on 30+ GenXers. In 2004, "30-something" is a much more accurate descriptor for GenX, than "under-30s". In addition, the term "30-something" can also be useful to (loosely) separate the majority of Xers who do NOT have boomer parents from the minority who do. In using "30-something" as a substitute for GenXer, though, the most important thing is not to forget that hundreds of us are now turning 40 every day**, and we are, I bet, the first bunch of 40 y.o.'s in history to look at the income and wealth of a home-owning age pensioner (with no other assets) and think of this as comparatively affluent, if not almost obscenely so.

Doofus number 2: Kati Riikonen, the 32 year-old Motorola employee quoted in this article:

Among the influences that have left their mark on Gen Xers are the Internet, international travel, the 1990s technology boom that jolted the business world just as they entered the workforce, and the technology bust that followed.

I?m not sure what Kati was otherwise doing, apparently not working up until her late 20s (the dotcom boom started, at the earliest, in 1998), but most Gen Xers started work ? or not ? by their early 20s, and in any case, a third of the generation were already in their 30s by the time the dotcom boom started. (I?m not saying there wasn?t a bust c. 2001, Kati ? it?s just that this is/was nothing even-remotely new.)

Doofus number 3: a team effort between journo Michael Winkler and 25-year-old Travis Scicchitano, a team leader with Conservation Volunteers Australia. Winkler writes:

Anyone decrying the shallowness or cynicism of Generation X would do well to meet Scicchitano.

Apart from playing into the hands of Mark Latham and his GenX-hating speech-meister, Simon Crean, Winkler and Scicchitano somehow fail to mention that the organisation so glowingly written-up in the article ? Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) ? discriminated, and profoundly so, against unemployed GenXers. Until recently, CVA received public money to run ?Green Corps? programs ? which are somewhat like Work for the Dole programs only (i) you lived away from home, and (ii) you were paid a wage (albeit not much, but a lot more than the bare dole, or the dole-plus-$10-a week that WfD conscripts get). The catch? Green Corps is only available to 17-21 year olds. Age discrimination: nice work if you can get it.

* Overwhelmingly, they are not, and in the year or two his proposal would take to get through parliament, only the barest rump would be, and then for a small time.

** Including me, in a few month's time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Derr, Ross Gittins

Who would have thought it? Prices for things that everyone needs – like food and beer* – are going up, way faster than wages (and way, way faster than the dole); while the prices of stuff that you-can-always-hold-on-the-old-one-for-a-bit-longer, like stereos, televisions, video equipment, cameras and home computers, are down a massive 21.3%, thus almost single-handled neutralising what would otherwise be a scarily-high inflation rate.

And who also would have thunk that both PM John Howard and Opposition Leader Mark Latham are both aggressively trying to appeal to the only people who are getting ahead in all this – the sliver of society who can afford to junk the old, and “upgrade” from perfectly good TVs, cars etc?

“Let them eat plasma screens”, eh, John and Mark?

* Tobacco, heroin and private school fees are excluded from my concerns here – sorry, folks, but none of these can be enjoyed in moderation, as far as I’m aware.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Globalisation and Wal-Mart

Whoever ends up with the US Democrats guernsey (“sweater”?) to run against George Bush later this year, there is a good chance that his platform will include some anti-globalisation aspects. Robert Gottliebsen has already flagged as much, while pointing out the existence of a supposed “anti-Wal-Mart movement” in the same breath. I suspect the latter movement exists only in proportion to the intermittent but curiously large-in-total amount of praise that Gottliebsen heaped on the US retail chain, in the course of covering the recent WEF in Davos*.

I’m not now (nor probably ever) going to give a lecture about why I essentially agree with the anti-globalisation movement. I will note, though, that I am strongly pro-trade and immigration, as long is this trade/movement is done non-exploitatively.

Anyway, back to Wal-Mart – in the news today for being the 19th C workhouse face of globalisation. Robert Gottliebsen’s timing is exquisite – a chain of stores he praised last week as the pinnacle of capitalism, only threatened by a mysterious movement, turns out to be its own worst advertisement; and I’m not quoting ferals-at-a-demo, or any other apparent “movement” here; just the AP wire. This certainly looks bad for Wal-Mart (Gottliebsen has long since been just a hired parrot for the Right), and Wal-Mart’s lawyer, David Murray, seems to have the unfortunate knack of making unconscionable things sound even worse:

Murray acknowledged that doors [behind which the cleaning contractors were] were kept locked, but insisted that a manager with a key was always present. "This was simply an effort to keep the employees safe and keep the merchandise secure," Murray said.

Quite. It’s a nice parallel, though. Almost the entirety of Wal-Mart’s inventory (according to Gottliebsen) is sourced from China, that other workers’ paradise – where the slaves (sorry, employees) are also kept “safe” from Western eyes, and the craptacular merchandise is kept as secure as the crown jewels.

* A ten part series in The Australian, 21 January - 31 January 2004.


Melbourne theatre in the 80s and early 90s

This 2-in-1 review reminded me of how Melbourne’s indy theatre scene has descended from being a highlight of my life* about 15 years ago, to today’s occasional chore. A playgoer’s takeaway “goody” bag with a syringe in it? For fuck’s sake! The shame is that I saw one of these plays (Homme Fatale) a few years ago – and it was good, if a bit relentlessly dark.

In 2004, the post-show handing out of syringes, is presumably seen as a (cheap) way of freshening-up a production that can, and should, more than stand-up on its own two feet – res ipsa loquitur. Oh, and the tickets this time around, at $30 ($27 conc) are way too expensive for those of us who are just getting by in syringe-on-footpath raddled inner suburbs. The junkies, meanwhile – judging by their insouciant disposal habits – somehow live in a world of endless plenty.

Even more of a shame is that Barry Lowe, the playwright barely mentioned in Helen Thomson’s review, is a writer of immense talent (judging by another play of his I have seen) who should be well-above such controversy-cranking gimmickry. The Death Of Peter Pan (1989) was deeply subversive, done as an Edwardian set-piece, and above all, very, very funny.

* I mean as spectator, only (although my interest was probably heightened by going to uni with many of the “scene” at the time.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Pride March, Melbourne

With personal, rather than political blogs taking the lion’s share of the recent Australian Blog Awards* (to the understandable bemusement of some Ozploggers), I thought I’d turn off my bile fire-hose for the day (or at least turn it inwards – I’ve never been good at locating the OFF button on anything I’ve touched or did).

And what cheerier event to colourfully place myself in than yesterday’s Pride March in Melbourne. That’s Pride March as in Gay and Lesbian Pride March, in case you are wondering. For some reason, Melbourne poofs do these things very differently from our Sydney cousins – if you call it the “Mardi Gras” up there, and not The GAY AND LESBIAN Mardi Gras, woe betide you.

In fact, everything about Pride March is different from the Mardi Gras Parade. For starters, there are few, if any, scantily dressed prancing boys – certainly if you exclude those over 50 (this Cardinal would therefore surely be impressed with the day's high “real homosexual” quotient). There are lots of boys (and girls) marching – it’s just that they’re all marching for a Cause (gay cops, gay greenies, gay teachers); all the causes in the world, it would seem, other than the inalienable right to look fabulous (which is the only cause in Sydney, if you exclude the charity cases).

Marching for a Cause also produces – surprise surprise – a much lower spectator turnout than Sydney’s titillating flesh-fest equivalent. Being able to get a good viewing spot, despite arriving on the knocker of 5pm starting-time, doesn’t help the perceptions of jaded, post-Cause** poofs such as myself – there seem to be more Mums and miscellaneous Friends of poofs than poofs themselves, whatever the colour of the placard they are carrying.

Definitely catching my eye, though, was the Minus-18 contingent – dozens and dozens of suburban schoolboys, all done up in their best, going-to-the-mall-with-their-fat-friend-Mandy style. They all looked so dreadfully young; “dreadfully” because they gave me an acute pang of that sense of growing-old. Unlike the pervy Germaine, the older I get, the less appealing teenage boys’ bodies seem, in terms of carnal possibilities. The crew marching yesterday looked like such fragile things, not fully-formed enough to be even of ornamental use.

* Thanks to those who nominated me, BTW; even including Yobbo, who put me up for the “NSW” category (Memo to Yobbo: I’ll take being thought to be a Sydney queen as a compliment this time, although not everyone would be as generous).

** I don’t mean to suggest I don’t CARE. On the contrary – if I may end here by semi-reverting to political rant mode (if indeed I left it) – my list of gripes is so extensive that, were I to join the march, the sheer size of my placard would almost certainly obscure my leather-chaps-with-the-bum-hanging-out-of-them, which all rather defeats the purpose, don’t you think?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?