It seems pretty clear that Therese Rein isn’t cut out for the federal political arena if these words of hers are accurately quoted:
“I fully accept personal responsibility for any errors made by my company in handling the details of the employment arrangements for staff,” she said “I have also accepted full responsibility for rectifying any errors.”
Apologising and taking responsibility for your mistakes! No wonder people like Howard, Downer, Costello, Vaille and Abbott think they still have the measure of Labor. Kevin Rudd has done this thing of acknowledging his mistakes a couple of times too. This is the right thing to do of course, but it is dangerous. There’s a good reason why Mr Howard never apologises or admits a mistake – political and Press Gallery practice tends to be that apologising for one action means that you are seen as probably guilty of whatever else people also accuse you of at the time. Despite this, I think it’s a good thing to see both Ms Rein and Mr Rudd adopting the practice of taking responsibility for mistakes.
The topic of Therese Rein, who has come into the spotlight because she is also Kevin Rudd’s wife, has received a lot of political media coverage recently. Apart from her willingness to take responsibility for a mistake, there are two other aspects out this situation which probably merit more attention that they seem to have received.
Firstly, it is reported that all of the Australian workers in Ms Rein’s company who are alleged to have been underpaid are on common-law contracts. This shows that exploitation is just as possible on common-law contracts as they are on AWAs, if there are insufficient safeguards in the law. To me, the issue is the overall protections against exploitation, not whether a worker is on an individual common law contract or an individual statutory contract (which is what AWAs are).
Secondly, Ms Rein’s decision to sell the Australian arm of her business interests could well have long-term consequences for many politicians. She has no doubt done the right thing politically to just clear away her business interests as an issue once and for all. However, it sets a big precedent, putting the bar much higher for all Ministers and their spouses.
In the long-term it will be quite a big disincentive for people wanting to go into politics if not only they, but also their partners, have to drop any business interests to avoid perceptions of conflict of interest. This will not be healthy for politics, as it is valuable to have people with business experience involved in Parliament and the Executive.
ELSEWHERE: Some other posts on this topic can be be found at Ambit Gambit, Larvatus Prodeo and Blogocracy. And John Birmingham, who has a regular blog on the Brisbane Times website, puts his view very bluntly:
There’s been a lot of talk about the principal of this and the perception of that, but I say principles schminciples. Rein’s been forced into a fire sale simply because politics is a cesspit, populated by bottom feeders and feral carnivores.