Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-4-1349 7828

May 2007 # 4

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Back to Editorials 2007

The Reigning Rein

In the ever lasting battle for the minds of men and women, one of the key strategies employed by the ruling classes, should their interests be challenged, is to create a smokescreen to obscure the real issues that should be occupying the minds of those they are trying to win over. For last couple of weeks Therese Rein, the wife of wanna be PM, Kevin “I’m from Queensland” Rudd, has been leading news bulletins over a supposed breach of workplace rules by underpaying some of the workers in one of her multimillion dollar, international businesses. 

Last Sunday, in The Age’s “Sunday Life” supplement, readers were treated to a nice, warm, fuzzy story on the ‘hard’ road she has trod to get to where she is. The story revolves around a two central premises. The first is that she had a bit of a rough go as a kid and that she is torn between being a mum and a multimillionaire business women. 

Now, I don’t want to turn this into a “bash Therese” rant but I think this story provides an interesting case study that helps us understand one of the primary issues that affect us as citizens and particularly, as workers. The “Sunday Life” story allows us a glimpse into the mind of the ruling classes (again) and gives us a glimpse into the future of politics under Labor, should they win the next ballot. 

Ms. Rein is described as having a “happy” childhood “riding horses, swimming and playing tennis, devouring Jane Austin books” and talking politics around the dinner table. We’re told she attended exclusive girl’s schools, St. Peter’s in Adelaide and Firbank Grammar in Melbourne. She graduated in arts-law from the Australian National University and was part of the Student Christian Movement. 

After meeting and breeding with Kevin she was torn between being a mother and running a multinational company. She says that she “wanted to be in four places at once” and found the only solution was to “hire a nanny” who “tries to bring order out of chaos”. Running her businesses, spread across Australia, Europe and the UK means she does a lot of travelling but I assume she is compensated quite well, earning not only her salary but also share bonuses of up to about a million dollars a year. 

According to the “Sunday Life” article Therese is not above a little rough and tumble when it comes to money. It seems Therese was quite prepared to do a backroom deal to get her hands on $5 million worth of shares when her former business partner died. Therese, we’re told, wanted everything signed, sealed and delivered but, alas, her now dead business partner didn’t want that, because, for her, according to Therese, a handshake was a good as her word. The executors of the deceased’s will thought this was a crock, took it to court and won so Rein missed out on a quick $5 mill from a dead woman.

The road to good times is sometimes paved with rocks and her most recent elevation in the media was caused by her ripping off her workers. Her defence was that she bought a company that had existing arrangements that she was unaware of. After the media broke the story she said she had begun paying back the workers she had been ripping off and was doing all she could to ensure her businesses complied with Australian Workplace Agreement requirements. 

When Kevin’s party was asked to comment on Therese’s propensity to rip workers off while claiming ignorance, all they could say was that it was an “honest mistake” and she was doing her best to repay the workers. There was no condemnation of her behaviour even though they were quite happy to vilify other employers who did the same thing. Dear ol’ Kev said it was none of his business and that his wife would do the right thing. Within a few days it was reported that she had sold her shares in the Australian arm of her company. No doubt it will emerge that all she has done is set up some form of shelf structure that means she still reaps the profits but at ‘arms length’. After all she did admit she didn’t want to “complicate the decision” the voters have to make at the next election. 

I want to turn, briefly, to a tape that emerged earlier this week in which Electrical Trades Union, Victorian Secretary, Dean Mighell talks about how he came to a deal to up the wages of some of his members. It seems that he, too, was quite comfortable doing backroom deals for those he thought would benefit. However, the language he used to describe his tactics were, some would argue, “colourful” and not very polite. 

Within a few hours of the Mighell’s taped remarks going to air Kevin “I’m from Queensland” Rudd had come down from the North and demanded Mighell’s resignation. Why? Because it was obvious that Dean had lobbied hard, played rough and won a few extra dollars for his members. Which is, by the looks of it, a much better deal for workers than the Labor party will ever offer. I make this diversion into Dean Mighell’s comments because it brings to the surface the real issue that is being obscured by the hype surrounding a rich boss ripping off her workers. 

The real issue, that needs to be talked about in the pubs and around the office water coolers, is why we believe the ruling class understand the needs and aspiration of those they rule over? 

We must remember that Kevin “from Queensland” spent the first six weeks of his incumbency talking, not with workers, but with their bosses. Not prepared to sit down and sup with the under-employed or the carers of the disabled he flew to New York and had a slap up, six star meal with Rupert Murdoch. While he was not willing to spend time in shorts and reflective vest driving from Adelaide to Brisbane with a trucker, he had plenty of time to enjoy the sumptuous surrounds of the Sydney Institute and the Business Council of Australia and to meet with the Australian Industry Group. 

In short, the Rudd family are, perhaps, even more embedded in the ruling class than John and Jeanette Howard. Kevin’s past life as a toe cutter in the Queensland bureaucracy would have opened up numerous doors for him now. His wife’s role within the business elites ensures that he has contact with those he feels comfortable with because he certainly isn’t comfortable around the rough and tumble that is the real world of the working classes he soon hopes to rule. 

As I said at the outset, when an issue that may expose the real intent of the ruling class threatens to expose their true hearts, a smokescreen is created to obscure our view. Kevin “from Queensland” and his wife are being constructed as ‘accessible’, nice, polite, innocent and brave. However, the reality is that they are ruthless, cunning and not above a bit of biffo if it serves their own interests. 

The working class should applaud Dean Mighell because at least he told the truth and for that the boss of the ‘worker’s party’ sacked him. The real issue is, then, who is protecting the interests of the working class because, as history show’s, the ruling class have no interest at all in doing so.

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