Essential Report

PUP holding balance of power

Jun 24, 2014

Q. When the newly elected Senate takes office in July, the Palmer United Party and other micro-parties will hold the balance of power. Do you think this will be good or bad for Australia? 




Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Vote other

Total good






Total bad






Very good












Neither good nor bad












Very bad






Don’t know






26% think that the Palmer United Party and other micro-parties holding the balance of power in the Senate will be good for Australia and 39% think it will be bad – similar overall results to the previous question about the Greens.

50% of other voters and 40% of Labor voters think it will be good for Australia while 62% of Liberal/National voters think it will be bad.

Ships, trains and submarines — can we build them here?

Sep 11, 2012

Tim Ayres wishes Clive Palmer and other mining giants would give local manufacturers a go instead of heading overseas.

When Clive Palmer recently announced his replica of the Titanic would be built in China due to the lack of ship building facilities in Australia, the AMWU hit back with a video clip showing the 500-strong workforce at a Newcastle shipyard.

It’s all part of the AMWU’s campaign, Build Them Here, appealing to government to set local content targets on some of the massive construction and transport projects to ensure local manufacturers get contracts ahead of low cost overseas competitors — as is often the case in the mining industry.

Tim Ayres, the NSW secretary for the AMWU, tells 3Q that local manufacturers can build heavy infrastructure – they just need to be given the opportunity. In doing so, new jobs and apprenticeships will be created, valuable intellectual property is developed and the knock on effect strengthens the economy.

Swan Sings Bruce

Aug 1, 2012

Who knew? Wayne Swan hearts Bruce Springsteen. But, the main point here: Swan is singing the right tune.

The poor folks at the Fin Review are wringing their hands over Swan’s new digs at the wealthy and the powerful (subscription needed) :

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan will ramp up his verbal attacks on Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest today by accusing them of using their wealth to treat the courts, Parliament, and the media as personal playthings.

In a speech lauding the political messages of US rock star Bruce Springsteen, Mr Swan will argue the billionaires have run “blatantly self-interested” campaigns since he accused them in March of threatening Australia’s “fair go” ethos.

“One tycoon is using his money to challenge the principle of fair taxation through electioneering; a second is using his money to challenge it through the courts; and a third is using her money to challenge it by undermining independent journalism,” Mr Swan will say.

The comments are likely to reignite debate about whether the Gillard government is more focused on wealth distribution than wealth creation, and suggest Mr Swan is worried about the party’s loss of its traditional working class support base.

What we love about this is that the journalist, not surprisingly, doesn’t bother to observe — because he isn’t capable of either grasping this fact or isn’t free to actually write it — that Swan is right on the money. The Palmer-Reinhart-Forrest trio, along with other extremely wealthy people, do not care about the future of the country. As I pointed out yesterday, this is a matter of priorities: do you want to make the country healthy, prosperous for all and fair, or, as one mining baron has just done, are you more interested in buying an exclusive home in Singapore.

Instead, it is an entirely false, if predictable, premise to counterpose, as the Fin Review writer does, “Wealth distribution” and “wealth creation”. I could write a treatise on this (for example, pointing out how putting more money in peoples’ hands through wealth distribution creates more wealth by giving people the ability to purchase goods) but let’s just consider one point I made last week: investing in the National Disability Insurance Scheme–which requires public funds investment, which, by definition, is wealth distribution — actually will create billions of dollars MORE in wealth over the coming decades. So, actually, economically, factually, wealth distribution creates more wealth.

I hope Swan keeps singing this tune. The Prime Minister, I think, made a real impression on the public with her steadfast defense of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and her staring down of recalcitrant state premiers who didn’t particularly think much of looking after the rights of the disabled. People want to hear truths that connect with what they see happening. Admittedly, sometimes the electoral benefits might either be slow to catch up or do not align right away. But, I think voters reward people who are truthful and courageous.

Rolling in Dough

Jun 25, 2012

As Gina continues on her “I, Gina” self-absorbed stomp, it’s always useful to keep in mind that a society always has the ultimate option: if rich people, or mining barons, don’t care about the national interest, they can just move somewhere else. And what is pretty clear is that most don’t, and won’t, because they have it good where they are–which brings us to the whinging about resources taxes.

Gina and her ilk–Clive Palmer and Twiggy Forrest come most quickly to mind–bring up the usual fiction heard around the world whenever higher taxes on the wealthy are pushed as a way of making sure a society sustains itself: it’s anti-business and hurts “us” from being competitive.

Well, to focus on just mining, that’s pure rubbish, as we learn from a pithy summary from Peter Colley, National Research Director at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (we don’t have a link to a place it might be posted–we’re just privileged to get such gripping, novelistic American Idol-like fare sent our way…). As Peter writes:

One would think the mining companies were losing money when the overall picture for the mining industry globally is one of rude good health.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the global Big 4 accounting firms, in their annual survey of the mining industry summarised the good news for big mining companies:

“In 2011, the financial results for the Top 40 hit new heights”, it said, listing the following facts:

• Revenues increased 26% to over $700 billion

• Net profit was up 21% to $133 billion

• Operating cash flows grew 34% to $174 billion

• Investing cash flows grew 92%

• The Top 40 returned 156% more to shareholders than in 2010

• Total assets remained above $1 trillion and grew a further 13%.

Imagine that. They are rolling in dough. And it isn’t the case that the local barons, Gina and The Gang, would have it so much better in another place on the planet. Back to Peter:

At least 25 countries increased taxes and royalties on their mining industries, or announced intentions to do so. These include all the major mining nations – Canada, the USA, South Africa, Indonesia, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and even China and India.

These taxes and royalties are often far higher than in Australia – in Colombia they can reach 81% of coal mining profit, while in the oil and gas sector it is well known that Norway taxes almost all the profit of the North Sea oil industry – but what remains is still enough to keep the investors coming.

So, the proper response to “we’ll take our business elsewhere” should be, “what flight can we book you on?” The truth is that what Gina and The Gang are really up to is a extortion–but they aren’t holding much of a weapon. The resources are in the ground. You can’t take it with you. But, by all means, if life is so cruel for Gina and The Gang, the country should organize a collective farewell party, wave goodbye and invite others to do their business here.


And we neglected to mention that Fortescue is out there whinging about the mining tax and, per the SMH, taking the government to court:

While large miners Rio Tinto and BHP were able to strike a deal with the federal government over the final scope of the tax, smaller miners including Fortescue and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting have waged a fierce battle against the tax.

Fortescue has been threatening to challenge the MRRT in the High Court for months, arguing it is unfair and was been stitched up by the government in conjunction with the big miners.

A spokesman for the acting prime minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan said the challenge had not come as a surprise.

”Mr Forrest has made it clear that he is staunchly opposed to the government spreading the benefits of the mining boom to millions of households and small businesses who aren’t in the fast lane,” he said.

“The Gillard government believes Australia’s non-renewable natural resources belong to all Australians, not just to a handful of mining billionaires, and is determined to deliver the MRRT to ensure the Australian community shares in the benefits and opportunities of the mining boom.” [emphasis added]

To which we say: good on the government, and the Swanster for saying what needed to be said.


Trust in People and Organisations

Jun 18, 2012

Q. How much trust do you have that the following people or organisations can be relied on to act in the community’s interest?


Total a lot/some trust

Total little/no trust

A lot of trust

Some trust

A little trust

No trust

Don’t know

Net trust
Kevin Rudd









Malcolm Turnbull









Tony Abbott









Julia Gillard









Mining magnates like Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart









Australian companies


















Foreign companies









There was a substantial lack of trust in all people and organisations tested with the exception of Australian companies – which split 46% a lot/some trust and 47% little/no trust.

For both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, the current leaders were less trusted than the previous leaders. However, all political leaders were more trusted than mining magnates like Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart.

Among Labor voters, 58% had a lot/some trust in Julia Gillard and 58% had a lot/some trust in Kevin Rudd. Among Liberal/National voters, 58% had a lot/some trust in Tony Abbott and 44% had a lot/some trust in Malcolm Turnbull.

Community engagement is the antidote to soccer’s soap opera

Feb 29, 2012

By Stewart Prins

This piece was first published on The Punch on 29 February – just as FFA Chairman Frank Lowy announced that Gold Coast United was being expelled from the A-League.

A-League football had one of its more mysterious moments on the weekend when colourful franchise owner Clive Palmer sent his Gold Coast United (GCU) team out onto the field with the message “Freedom of Speech” plastered across the front of their playing strip.

Neither Mr Palmer nor his Gold Coast United CEO Clive Messink offered an explanation for the late change to the playing strip, or for the advertising billboards quoting the same slogan.

The strange advertisement came after a controversial fortnight where Mr Palmer appointed a 17 year-old debutant as acting club captain, sacked the coach and lambasted FFA bosses as incompetent and overpaid.

The soap opera has taken the gloss of a largely successful season in the A-League, and has left the future of the Gold Coast-based club under a cloud.

But while the discussion around Gold Coast United has focussed on the erratic behaviour of its owner, the situation has exposed another issue which deserves to looked at: professional football’s reliance on the benevolence of a billionaire boys club to stay afloat.

The league is increasingly operating at the behest of mining magnates.   Apart from GCU, the Newcastle Jets is owned Nathan Tinkler, Perth Glory is owned by Tony Sage, and Brisbane Roar is now owned by controversial Indonesian tycoon Aburizal Bakrie.

Is this situation healthy?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of being beholden to a small cadre of rich men?

The advantages are obvious: they have bucket-loads of cash and are happy to spend it.  Running a professional soccer club is expensive, so it makes sense to call in people who can afford to do it, and who don’t mind burning some money along the way.

But the disadvantages are profound, and not just when an owner ‘goes rogue’.

Clubs are by nature collectives, comprising payers, members and supporters.  The people need to feel a sense of belonging to the collective.

When a club becomes the personal play-thing of one individual, it fundamentally loses its meaning.

The disenfranchisement of club supporters was evident on the Gold Coast on Saturday night, where GCU’s supporter group – known as ‘The Beach’ – held aloft a banner that read ‘FFA save GCU’.  I guess that’s freedom of speech.

The reliance on mining billionaires to fund the professional game is also indicative of a mindset that has pervaded the administration of football for years – a view that football is somehow broken, and in need of a saviour.  Terry Venables, John O’Neill, Frank Lowy, Guus Hiddink, Robbie Fowler, Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton, mining billionaires – the list of football’s supposed white knights is long and illustrious.

And then there was the biggest white knight (turned white elephant): the World Cup bid.

It’s a cargo cult mentality, a top-down approach that believes that the next big thing will come along and spark a wave of interest in professional football, and the benefits then flow through to the rest of the sport.

There are two things wrong with this view.

Firstly, it hasn’t really worked.  All of the people mentioned above have made a significant contribution to the sport, but A-League clubs are still struggling to gain a solid foothold in our competitive professional sporting market.

Secondly, the cargo cult mentality fails to understand football’s greatest strength.  Football is easily the most popular participation sport in the country.  According to Frank Lowy himself, football has 1.7 million active participants in Australia.

At the grass-roots level, football is absolutely flying, but the interest in football isn’t translating into an interest in the A-League.

The top-down approach to this conundrum looks to impose board-room solutions.  It’s about the next marketing gimmick, or about bringing in another business mate with deep pockets.

But why not turn this model upside down?  If we built football from from the base up, from the strong foundation that’s already in place, the game would look a lot different.

In fact, it may look more like FC Barcelona – arguably the world’s most successful football club.

As Social Business Australia’s Melina Morrison pointed out on this week’s 3Q program, FC Barcelona is owned and run by its supporters.

Indeed there is a growing movement in the UK and across Europe of football clubs that have at least partial supporter-ownership.

Clubs like AFC Wimbledon, for example, have been created by local supporters, while other groups like Dons Supporters Together in Aberdeen are organising and demanding a real stake in their local club.

And, dare I say it, member-ownership is the structure used by clubs in Australia’s most successful professional football code – the AFL.

Of course, the member-ownership may not be the answer to all of football’s problems in Australia, but neither is Clive Palmer.

Rich people who are willing to get involved the game should be welcomed, but the game should not be reliant on them.

And instead of always looking to the sky for the next big thing, the administrators of football in this country need to look down and think about the big thing that’s already at their feet: the huge community of football fans who want their game back.

Buckets of Gold and Fifty Paces

Jun 9, 2010

The last time a determined interest group took on a federal government, EMC was behind the wheel – driving the ACTU Rights at Work campaign.

This time the attack is coming from the mining industry, and if reports are to be believed, the miners are forking out in three months $100 million – about four times the three year budget for the Rights at Work campaign.

Having worked on a campaign that most agree shifted government, it’s worth asking – is the Miners campaign as effective? Are the winning the hearts and minds of the battlers? In short, are they going to change the government?

Here are few lessons we learned from Rights at Work, and my initial reactions on how the mining lobby is faring. Comments »

Political Ads are All About Turnaround

Jun 4, 2010

When the Australian Workers Union decided to inject itself into the national debate on the resource Rent Tax, they called EMC with a challenging brief.

With a 48 hour turn around we were asked to script produce and deliver a 30 second TV ad that would rebut the increasingly shrill complaints of the mining lobby.

Working with Milko Productions, EMC adapted a concept we had been working on for some time – the notion that the mining industry is defined by what it takes out of Australia. Comments »


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