13/12/2005 - 21:00

Sydney riots hurt our Aussie brand

13/12/2005 - 21:00


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It might feel like a long way away but the events at Cronulla Beach in Sydney at the weekend are something we should all be wary of.

Sydney riots hurt our Aussie brand

It might feel like a long way away but the events at Cronulla Beach in Sydney at the weekend are something we should all be wary of.

Australia has a massive amount of goodwill throughout the world and images like those of rioting racist bigots – no matter what the underlying reason – only give further ammunition for our enemies and trade rivals.

In corporate speak, that mob did some brand damage to Australia.

If allowed to fester it could impact on industry, especially those that rely on Asia, such as tourism and the lucrative foreign education market where rivals are always keen to play up Australia’s alleged racism and white colonial past.

I’ve always argued that Australia is not a racist place; that Aussies simply speak their minds and don’t engage in political correctness.

A crowd of violent, slogan-yelling thugs wrapped in national flags and hunting down anyone of Middle Eastern appearance makes my argument look weak.

This isn’t some bunch of nutcases burning a few restaurants – many of these people appeared to be quite mainstream young Australians.

Unlike the French version of rioters, these people were not downtrodden, under-privileged or missing out.

While I sympathise with concern about violence perpetrated by ethnic minorities, which prompted the mob retaliation – it does make you wonder how these people think and what lies in store for future generations.

Where is the leadership that may have sought to quell such a concern or, preferably, redirect it into more peaceful forms of protest?

Why couldn’t those people be encouraged to reclaim Cronulla in a non-violent fashion?

If they wished to celebrate Australiana, chasing young women and bashing innocents is an appalling way to show it … or is that the real Australia?

Is it really lying under the surface?

The irony of those scenes is that many of the young men sneering at police and demanding revenge come from backgrounds so diverse that, only a few generations ago, they would have more likely been at each others’ throats than fighting side by side like misguided brothers.

The Irish, the Italians, the Greeks (the most likely minority ancestries represented in the mob crowds) have all had their troubles in Australian society – especially the former group, who represented a huge part of the nation’s founding European population but were viewed with distrust by the largely English-bred leaders of the colony.

The Irish supported terrorism, their religion was different, they dressed and acted differently, they had more children and they were seen as a threat to the natural order.

It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? Yet, you only have to see how much things have changed to realise that what took place in Cronulla should never have been allowed to happen.

Enough of soapbox

I thought I would turn my attention to a few of our stories.

Firstly, we have our quarterly update on exploration spending, which again reinforces concerns about spending in this sector as Australian companies find it more lucrative to shift their attention offshore.

Every business in Western Australia ought to be concerned about this.

While this nation is often criticised for its lack of research and development spending, exploration is a very rudimentary form of this.

Without it, we don’t lay the foundations for the next generation of mining businesses, and in turn we increase our reliance on finding and developing alternative economic drivers.

Not enough is being done by governments to alter this very serious situation.

Our cover story, on John Lagan and the disaster that befell his winery Chateau Xanadu, is a classic tale for all business people and warning that very few people have the golden touch.

Dr Lagan founded and built a successful winemaker, only to see it evaporate in the hands of the next generation as the corporate sharks moved to claim their piece of the pie.

It is a true business tragedy, and makes it all the more understandable that many company founders simply won’t hand over the reins of what they built … or sell it off.

The lessons in this one are many, but perhaps for me, the key was that a business without a clear direction is a lost cause. When Xanadu altered course due to council development restrictions it set off a chain reaction of events that took the company down.

Easy in hindsight, isn’t it?

Further forward we have an interesting piece on Homeloans Ltd, one of the first mortgage originators in the country.

Over its two-decade lifespan, Homeloans has been a significant success, trailblazing the market in WA where mortgage origination really took off.

However, its listing a few years ago appears to have been a peak.

Since then, the market has matured, become more competitive and the banks have fought hard to reclaim their market share.

The business lesson here is that few markets are forever and not all companies can be growth stories – eventually they stabilise. Management need to know when that point is reached and what their financial supporters want them to do next … find more growth or sit back and pay off all the hard work?

Finally, a word on Tim Treadgold’s Briefcase.

This is a very timely article, which highlights the irony that changes to industrial relations laws may, in the current environment, result in higher wages.

I believe this will hurt most at the upper end of the market, where largely stable companies are trying to keep costs down while growth opportunities are limited.

Their biggest problem will be how much the new IR laws provide flexibility for smaller, more versatile players who have previously been hampered by the risks of adding new staff.


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