06/12/2005 - 21:00

Costello abrogates his responsibility

06/12/2005 - 21:00


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Was Peter Costello serious when he suggested reportedly he had no responsibility to investigate the background of Reserve Bank of Australia board candidate, Robert Gerard?

Costello abrogates his responsibility

Was Peter Costello serious when he suggested reportedly he had no responsibility to investigate the background of Reserve Bank of Australia board candidate, Robert Gerard?

Does Mr Costello really believe it is up to the candidate to supply all the information required to win a position as prestigious and influential as a seat on the RBA?

While there are many legitimate excuses for what happened, suggesting such nonsense does the federal treasurer no favours.

In business, almost any position is subject to background checks and at least a little investigation by the party doing the hiring.

Why is that? Because it’s their responsibility. When a boss employs someone who is a crook, who is lazy, who is stealing intellectual property in order to establish their own business, or is simply so conniving that it’s worth the risk of an unfair dismissal claim to get rid of them – it’s their own fault.

Even if the employee is just not a great fit, it’s still your fault. In most cases, a limited amount of legal investigation would have revealed what you paid good wages to find out.

Most employers do go to some lengths to establish the credentials of candidates, because it is so costly to make up for the mistake of not doing so.

The higher up the ladder the more checks and investigation you do; because the damage caused is exponentially linked to the level of responsibility held by the employee.

If it all goes pear-shaped, it’s the employer’s problem, isn’t it?

And, on a scale of one to 10, I would have thought that an RBA board member would have been quite high on the importance scale, which makes the employer’s burden even more onerous.

While it’s amazing, in hindsight, that the national media didn’t discover Mr Gerard’s tax battle until now, I am quite sure that a decent investigation into his background would have revealed the legal drama he was embroiled in.

To suggest that it was up to Mr Gerard to supply such details is disingenuous. It’s such a bad excuse, I am genuinely appalled.

To hear a political leader use it as an excuse for making a bad, politically-based appointment is pathetic.

Mr Costello would have been much smarter to simply say he wasn’t aware of the tax matter (he couldn’t have made the appointment if he did, could he?) and that he’d look into it.

I have no problem with people wanting to legitimately avoid paying tax but this does not look like the act of a business icon. It would have been easy to say that, in hindsight, Mr Costello thought that Mr Gerard has acted inappropriately for someone who needed to uphold the dignity of the RBA.

Instead, he trotted out this rubbish and then defended Mr Gerard, who ended up quitting anyway. It was just one bad decision after another.

This is a very distasteful chapter and handled as badly as you would only expect from a government that had grown complacent.

It is worth us reminding them, and all governments, that such high-ranking positions are important to the functioning of society and should not be treated as political booty to be awarded to mates as prizes.

Liquor reform about more than tourists

THIS week’s special report is a focus on Dullsville, with particular emphasis on the role liquor licensing plays in that.

For those newly arrived in Perth – and still trying to find out where all the fun bits are – the Dullsville tag comes from a damning newspaper report based on a backpackers’ travel guide’s condemnation of Perth as boring.

While most of us who have chosen to live here will argue it’s not that bad, few residents I have spoken to would disagree that changes could be made to liven the place up. This is especially the case for tourists, who often struggle to find things – like a drink – in a place where our Australian mythology suggests they should.

Rather than carefree, they often find uptight.

Rather than a glass of wine or quiet beer, they often get rules quoted at them, generally with an apology.

It was with this in mind that we hosted a luncheon to discuss this issue, asking key players in the liquor reform debate as well as few extras with the promise of widening discussion beyond the subject of alcohol.

This invitation to discuss the wider Dullsville issue gives me cause to applaud Australian Hotels Association chief Bradley Woods for deftly turning the event from a discussion about reforms that threaten his membership to one that focused on foreshore development.

AHA members should know they get their money’s worth from Mr Woods, who is a regular feature in our ‘most influential’ special report.

It was a canny move that shifted debate onto the Perth foreshore, which is one of those subjects that has virtually unanimous agreement and virtually nothing to do with liquor reform.

Yes, we need our own answer to Darling Harbour, but Sydney itself is not interesting simply because of one promenade. The NSW capital, and its great rival Melbourne, both have far more relaxed views on liquor than our stuffy Victorian era rules allow.

Liquor reform might make Perth more interesting for tourists but it will also make the city more liveable for the people who actually live here.

I’d love to see the Swan foreshore developed, but not as an excuse to protect local pubs from competition.



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