Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fed till you're full

I finally made it along to my first Fourth Estate Domain (better know as FED) event last night. This time it was Martin Dalgleish now of PBL and latterly of Optus on the couch.

While I took some note about what Martin said - much of which I agreed with - it was the number of people there that stunned me.

Now a lot of them were clearly there just for "networking" and some of that was probably as much to be seen as to see someone else. But elsewhere in the media and comms fields we sort of bemoan the lack of interest in the "policy" debate - yet really what was discussed would have been equally at home at Mark Armstrong's Network Insight or at the telco industry's SPAN or ACIF (which merge today to become the Communications Alliance.

I have just returned from the last ever SPAN annual dinner (where I was crushed to not be selected the telecommunications ambassador - well not really, and congratulations Rosemary Sinclair). At that dinner there were people asking where the next generation of the policy advocates will come from - despite there being 500 hardy souls in the room.

The answer is that the people who will carry the conversation forward have already changed the way a conversation is run. So just maybe we in the old part of the industry need to rethink our model of how policy discussion occurs if we want to expand the scope.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ports and trade

Just back from a CEDA dinner at which the Deputy PM and Minister for Trade Mark Vaile spoke. In a speech covering trade negotiations, infrastructure and the economy in general it struck me that he was pleased with the improvement in crane rates at our container ports.

Makes you think though - our exports mostly go through bulk terminals. Our container ports handle more imports than exports - so increasing the crane rates just makes the trade balance worse - not better.

Bit like how unfair dismissal laws will stuff small business. Why? Because prospective employees can't tell the difference between a good and bad small business so you have to expect that you will be sacked for no reason by a small business so you will require a "risk premium" in your pay. Good one small business lobby - you just reduced your competitiveness.

But as Peter Hendy at the ACCI used to work for Peter Reith bad reasoning is to be expected.

Quickie on cooking

Mama Cass has asked me what I like cooking. And the answer is anything that I've got the time to try. I'm not into elaborate dishes, my favourite meals are grazing meals - so Indian curry nights are good, as are Lebanese lunches - though about all I cook then are lamb mince and pine nuts in filo with maybe the falafel. My daughters are like the old Tom Cruise add - they'll stay home if I'm cooking a lamb roast.

I love both Christmas and Easter (Good Friday) for which I now have set menus that don't change but are things only cooked that day (well, mostly). Christams is cold - but includes a turkey stuffed with a forcemeat (well actually I know do a breast and stuffed chickens instead) a really nice brown rice salad and asparagus with sesame seeds and balsamic dressing - takes the whole day the day before. Easter is a salmon pie, macaroni cheese (for non-seafood loving daughter), curried prawns (using Alice Doyle's recipe) and some fresh fish in batter.

But it is really just something I do. Next Mama Cass will want to know what grass I cultivate.....

Monday, August 14, 2006

Viva the Senate

The PM has decided to pull his immigration bill from the Senate.

Howard has realised that his Bill will not be passed and that to save face he will remove it from consideration. Great news that this odious proposal will not become law, but perhaps a bit of a pity that the Senate didn't get to perform its function.

I wonder how the five* brave coalition members in the House of Representatives feel - after all if John Howard were really the political genius he is usually credited with being he would have pulled the Bill once he saw Marise Payne's Senate committee's report.

* Technically there were three truly brave coalition members and two honourable mentions.

Reading too much into it

The Oz today has some idle speculation about potential changes in the line up of Departmental secretaries in Canberra. At the same time our friends at Crikey (again) have mentioned the fact that an article about Jane Halton in the AFR didn't ask the "hard questions".

Ignoring the hard questions piece, was the AFR piece an exercise in what the Chinese would have called "rehabilitation"? Was it really designed to see if anyone would metaphorically "mention the war".

Meaning of "democracy"

Today's Crikey has an article by Richard Farmer asking if Afghanistan is still worth fighting for.

In it he recounts a recent story of a man who was to be sentenced to death for converting to Christianity - because they still practice sharia law. The item concluded by mentioning John Howard's speech in parliament last week.

As justification for increasing the Australian troop commitment Mr Howard declared that “our efforts, and those of our coalition partners, are bearing fruit. Afghans have embraced democracy and open, democratic institutions are developing. Afghanistan now has a democratic constitution and a democratically elected president and parliament.”

It is probably about time that John Howard and others figured out that democracy means more than just having elections. The US enshrined the concept of the separation of the state from any specific religion, built on the experience of their early citizens. In fact, amongst European countries those that most rapidly adopted a separation of the church from the State were those that developed economically most rapidly. Alfred Cobban's three volume Pelican history of modern France makes a very strong case for how the influence of the church held back French economoc and political development.

At least the Australian Democrats have started to raise the debate about this in Australia. Is the response to global terrorism to support a state which has a state religion and to draw religious groups closere into the operation of our own state? Do we understand that the UK terrorists are the products of religious schools?

It is hard to believe there can be any lasting peace in large areas of the world until it is accepted that Government is a secular activity and that democracy includes religious tolerance.

At the same time we should recognise that recent attempts by Government to include religious groups in social policy is an attempt to recreate social capital. It is clear that we cannot run a society where to give someone a hand-up means the Government gives a hand-out.

But a greater exposition on that shall await another day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Glass ceilings and ankle weights

Laurel Papworth has done the honour of mentioning that she turned up to the FITT for a bit of a laugh. I've gotta say it was a nerve racking gig - and for the record this is roughly what I said.


Tonight our team will be arguing that the Glass Ceiling doesn’t exist. This is quite probably a dangerous position for a person of my gender to take, but my team members have three important attributes which will assist in our argument. The first is that they are both definitely female.

To argue that something doesn’t exist we first need to define what that thing is. Relying on that most authoritative source – – we have the definition that “The term glass ceiling refers to the observation that top-level management in businesses consist predominantly, if not exclusively, of a certain demographic (i.e. white heterosexual males)”. It is commonly attributed to an article in the Wall Street Journal but was used two years earlier in Adweek – and heck, it does sound like an advertising kind of line.

But the metaphor itself is clearly wrong. The image of a Glass Ceiling is that there is, beneath it, this whole group of women – their faces pressed to the glass like a kid at a lolly shop window – waiting to come in.

The fact is that people do cross that so called barrier. I can think immediately of simple examples like the CEO of my parent company Telecom New Zealand. The second of the important attributes of my co-speakers is that they have also crossed that barrier.

So it is clearly a bad metaphor. It is not an “exclusive” barrier. But what should we make of the suggestion that top-level management come predominantly from this list. We all know the aphorism that Mark Twain incorrectly ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli, that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” We expect our opponents will regale you with lots of the third of these at least.

We will hear statistics about the number of women on Boards, but not hear about how Linda Nicholls Chair of Australia Post built her career. We will hear about the gender wage gap including in graduate starting salaries, but not that women still under represent themselves in choosing IT and engineering degrees. We will hear claims of boys clubs and the inaccessibility of networks, but not about the women who build their own networks.

The one thing you will note in all these statistics is that they are couched in the terms that men would regard as success. As our second speaker will tell you, women are redefining “success”. The Glass Ceiling doesn’t exist when you redefine the goal.

The third great attribute of my co-speakers is that they come from a long way away – in a land where people take a great deal more responsibility for their own careers. You will hear from both of them that the Glass Ceiling doesn’t exist for those who take responsibility for their own careers and their own choices.

In summary, it is our argument that the Glass Ceiling doesn’t exist because of the evidence of successful women. That the ability to be successful is in the control of women – both to define success and plan their path to success.

If women are being held back on the slippery pole of life the analogy that is most suitable is of ankle weights below, not a ceiling above. And women have in their control the ability to remove those weights. To paraphrase Marx “Women of Australia, listen – you have nothing to lose but your chains”.


The fact that we lost is no reflection on the excellent contributions of my team mates. And I should point out that in the debate I said chains at all points in that last paragraph - and the audience let their displeasure be known.

Thanks to FITT for asking me along. Great time was had by all. (And apologies for using the same aphorism in successive bloglets.)