Brown Study

Brown study

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

No-one should have been surprised when Greens Senator Richard Di Natale was sprung last week for paying his three employees $3.75 an hour for labouring away on his rural estate. We should not have been surprised because, as we all know, there are special rules for the Greens and they are never subjected to the rigorous scrutiny and criticism that others have to endure. The Greens can be as hypocritical as they like, but the media will never pursue them or write uplifting editorials condemning them. Like Caesar’s wife, they are above reproach. Thus, when 7 Eleven pays $16.50 an hour it is ‘slave labour’. When McDonalds and Woolworths pay teenagers $10 an hour, Fairfax Media is outraged at this ‘dirty little secret’ and demands that action be taken to stamp out such capitalist excesses. But when a Greens Senator pays even less than these modest sums, a miserly $3.75, the criticism is strangely muted. It is the same with all of their policies. The Greens are immune from criticism because they are into all the good and officially approved policies like destroying jobs in the coal industry, sexualising children, taxing everyone into oblivion, breaking down traditional marriage, destroying industry and flooding the country with 50,000 refugees a year. But the media abuse is directed not at them for proposing such absurdities, but at people like Peter Dutton for telling the truth. So, Di Natale gets away with paying this pittance for menial work and it scarcely causes a ripple on the media surface. But in a bizarre sort of way, the Coalition parties should be grateful to the Senator and the economic wisdom percolating from the chimneys of his manor house. He has, after all, shown how the Coalition can solve the great quandary that has beset it since the dreaded WorkChoices bit the dust. As you know, the big issue in industrial relations is how can we break free from the dead hand of the centralised wage fixing system and all the ridigity and economic stupidity that comes from our system of compulsory industrial awards imposed on everyone, irrespective of whether they want it or not and irrespective of whether employers can afford to pay crippling award rates and ludicrous penalties for weekend work. The Coalition is petrified about even raising the subject, but Senator Di Natale has shown how employers and employees alike can break free from this debilitating system. Just ignore it. For that is what the Senator has done. And got away with it. It is what others, and the Coalition, should now also do, following to the letter the unimpeachable precedent that this progressive hero has set. First, as appearances are everything, it should find a name for the new system. I would suggest ‘the DiNatale Model’, because this eponymous blueprint is based on his own groundbreaking work and no-one would dare criticise a reform that carries such a respectable and sustainable name. It will also be guaranteed, for the same reason, to pass unscathed through the Senate. Secondly, the advice to employers should simply be: look at the award to see what you have to get around, but then just take the employee aside and say: ‘Bugger the award; let’s get together and see what we can work out between us; there will be a bit of give and take, but the end result will be good for you.’ Then you really move into sleight-of-hand; you have to reduce their pay rate under the award, so you announce there will be a deduction for the nutritious vegan meals they will have in the servants’ hall and another for their luxury accommodation over the shearing shed. On the way through, you must word up a tame consultant to give advice that the deductions you propose are entirely legitimate. Indeed, there should be a special website of vetted consultants to give this convenient advice, with a catchy name like My Vassals. And, lo and behold, the result is $3.75 an hour! Suddenly, a pay rate that is worse than the ‘slave labour’ rate that 7 Eleven pays, is lawful and legitimate. And don’t forget that the new system is itself a social reform, as it creates more jobs, for the Greens have succeeded, where others have failed, in the noble task of how to employ a team of servile domestic servants to wait on you, while you ponder in comfort the deeper issues of the environment and without having to pay the outrageous award rates that everyone else has to pay. There will be criticism in the early stages, as there always is, with such momentous reforms. Some troglodytes will say that Di Natale’s set-up sounds like a cross between a Dickensian workhouse and Downton Abbey. But with the imprimatur of the Greens, success is guaranteed. Finally, you put some sentimental spit and polish on your creative employment arrangements by adding that your employees are grateful and actually love you for their $3.75: look, they really are part of the family. And when the servants climb the stairs at night to their resting place, tugging their forelock and clutching their humble sovereign, no doubt they are grateful that after years of a repressive system that stifles employment, they are now safely in the benevolent hands of a reforming employer. The precedent is there, but is the Coalition courageous enough to adopt it? And what a perfect match this is to that other hero of the working class, ALP Senator David Feeney, whose property portfolio is so extensive and enmeshed with trusts that he ‘forgot’ to declare on the parliamentary register the $2.3 million house he bought to renovate as the family home in his electorate. So burdened has he been by parliamentary duties that he also forgotten to renovate it and has had to settle for the lonely life of the property owner and collecting the rent.

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