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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Reigning Rein by Shane Elson

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

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.


Dean Mighell

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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