Businessman and Philanthropist Peter Ivany: Giving something back

Peter Ivany - The Australian Business Executive

Melbourne-born businessman and philanthropist Peter Ivany made part of his fortune as Chief Executive of Australia’s second largest movie exhibitor, Hoyts Cinemas.

During his time at Hoyts Cinemas, which he ran between 1988 and 1999, Mr Ivany grew the business to over 2,000 theatres operating in 12 countries. Further business successes include home video rental business Video Ezy, and retailer Harris Scarfe, and he is currently the executive chairman of his own diversified investment company, Ivany Investment Group (IIG), as well as being equally, if not more, visible for his ongoing philanthropic activities and community involvement. Mr Ivany spoke with us recently to tell the story of how he made his wealth, shared advice on business for entrepreneurs, and explained his value system of giving back to the community. 

Hoyts Cinemas

“In 1981, Twentieth Century Fox had been just taken over by Marvin Davis,” Mr Ivany says, “an oil man from Texas. His group were more interested in the real estate than the theatre business, so they put the cinemas business, Hoyts, up for sale. My father-in-law, Leon Fink was one of a number of partners that owned two theatres in Melbourne and they ended up outbidding all the others for the Hoyts’ business.”

Mr. Fink and his partners invited Mr Ivany to be part of the newly extended business and in 1983 he, his father-in-law and two brothers-in-law bought out the other existing partners and began to run Hoyts Cinemas together. “We also ran a range of other businesses at that time.”

These other businesses included two public companies in radio and other media, advertising, film and TV production, including the largest radio network in the country at the time, Triple M.

When Peter was appointed CEO of Hoyts, in 1988, a particularly hard economic time in Australia following the 1987 property crash, there was much work to be done to try to turn around the business. This was eventually achieved with a lot of support, hard work, determination, and a lot of sleepless nights.

“In 1993 my father-in-law, Leon, passed away, and I was able to buy out my other partners with the help of Lend Lease and Hellman and Friedman, a private equity firm out of San Francisco.  

“We bought Hoyts out in 1993, started to expand internationally and in 1996 we went public, having grown the chain from 40 to over 2,000 theatres around the world. We were public for two or three years before we decided to sell the business to Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) in 1999.”

“At Hoyts, we rebuilt and reshaped not only the Australian cinema landscape but the cinema landscape internationally,” he says. “We were the first group to build multiplexes in Australia the late 80s and by expanding on this format, we saw the level of attendance increase virtually four-fold from the time I started in the business to the time I finished. It was very exciting.”

Mr. Ivany considers this period of his career, which he calls ‘phase one’, to have ended with the sale of Hoyts in 1999 to CPH. After the sale of Hoyts, he began to investigate and invest in businesses in different areas. These investments culminated with Mr. Ivany establishing the Ivany Investment Group which also expands on his philanthropic interests and activities.

Community focus

A driving force for Mr Ivany in all his businesses is the idea that through business acumen and generating profits, his companies could make positive changes for the whole, creating social benefits as well as economic ones.

Rather than spending more of his life building another company, as he did with Hoyts, travelling and filling his time with work, Peter wanted to give something back to society at large, and he wanted to do it in Australia.

“After the sale of Hoyts, I decided to spend half my life in philanthropy. It was an easy decision for me to make because I wanted to make a contribution, and hopefully a difference, to the community that had given me so much. The interests that I had, I just continued with them. I’ve stayed in film through AFTRS (Australian Film, Television and Radio School), NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art), the Jewish Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival. I delved more into the sporting community with the Sydney Swans’ organisation and the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. I was involved in art through the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art and, of course, the Jewish community with the Jewish Communal Appeal. Also, I serve as an Adjunct Professor at University of Technology Sydney where I lecture and teach. So those are the few areas I’ve developed more fully in philanthropy.”

Having had the experience of living on a kibbutz at age nineteen, Mr Ivany developed a social conscience early on in life, and it has stayed with him to this day. His experiences with Hoyts, both good and bad, helped him meet the challenges faced in his philanthropic endeavours, ultimately helping them to succeed.

Peter Ivany - The Australian Business Executive
I’m not going to say that there weren’t some dark nights, nights where it was hard to see the future

“I spend approximately 50% of my time in philanthropy and 50% in business. During the tough times of 2008, and even these [COVID-19] times, you end up spending more time in business, when it needs it, but over time it sort of averages out so that there is a balance.”

Backed by an excellent team at IIG, Mr Ivany can utilise his entrepreneurial skills on the business side to make sure it all runs smoothly and to ensure that they provide safe cash flow investments that in turn allows him to continue with his philanthropic endeavours and find that balance that he enjoys. For him, it’s never been about ‘who’s got the highest net worth.”

Mr Ivany still enjoys the business side of his life. IIG is diversified with its investments in property funding, technology, stocks and bonds and private equity and while some investments are passive, some are active. It is the active ones that provides him an opportunity to use his experiences and contribute mostly to the visions of others. He has spent considerable time over the last few years working on and developing the businesses of the Sydney Zoo, Allied Finance and IMAX, currently three of his larger projects.   

“In the past I’ve been involved in quite a few ‘active’ projects that not only build businesses but also increases shareholder value such as Video Ezy and Tourism Asset Holdings Limited, “TAHL,” managed by Accor Hotels, which was Australia’s largest hotel operators.”

The diversification between passive ventures or investments allows him to be able to allocate more time to his philanthropic and community-based work.

“The philanthropy is not just a time commitment,” Mr Ivany says, “it’s also strategic. You’re helping people build their organisations and helping them reach their visions for the community. The not-for-profit sector is growing rapidly, probably because more and more people are finding that, not only is it an important way to spend their time, it is also vastly fulfilling to be involved with organisations that benefit social welfare.”

Doing business without fear

When Mr Ivany found himself in the position to buy out his partners at Hoyts, he had no real experience of what he was going to be up against and therefore he had no fear. This is something he admits was key to his success.

“For approximately three years, between 1987-1990, we were facing huge losses, so I had to ask the question, do I go and do something else or do I try to find a way to make it work?  At the core of it, I believe I am someone who likes to find solutions and who isn’t afraid of the hard work it takes to make things happen and even in this situation, I truly believed that I could find a solution. When I put CEO on my business card it enabled me to make the often tough, necessary decisions and slowly we made our way back from the negative and started turning it into something positive.”

Mr Ivany admits that the most important skill in that situation is to back yourself and have a vision. You can’t look at it in terms of risk analysis, because the risks are too big. Mr Ivany feels the main traits of entrepreneurship are having confidence, backing yourself and working around the clock.

“We were able to find hope when there was none,” he explains. “We restructured the whole business by reducing our bank debt, we sold off surplus assets and significantly improved our profitability in our core business.”

Making a business successful is all about finding the small positives, which Mr Ivany did as CEO of Hoyts, and then timing it right to find the solutions. In the late 80’s they could have sold the business cheaply and moved on elsewhere, but they held out because not only did he enjoy the business, he believed in it.

“I’m not going to say that there weren’t some dark nights, nights where it was hard to see the future. There were times when you get very little sleep, and there was no balance in your life. We made it with the most finite of margins.”

At age 35, Mr. Ivany found that people were beginning to believe in him on the back of this incredible turnaround. This kind of success can provide an enormous amount of confidence for somebody in a leadership position – and confidence is key.

“Any leader has to have people that follow them and for people to follow a leader they have to believe in the person that makes the decisions. To be that leader, you need to believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself others will as well, because people want answers, they want solutions and they want a pathway in life. Any leader has to give people paths.”

“What I have found is that once somebody has become used to running a business themselves, and has achieved a certain level of autonomy, their skills become far more general than specific, and in effect they make themselves virtually unemployable in any other format.”

“If you want to continue to work, then in effect you have to continue to be an entrepreneur, because really there is no other solution. It’s difficult when you have run your own business, made the decisions, and reached a certain age to then pivot into an institution with multi-layered, bureaucratic systems.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, just that it is difficult to do.”

Entrepreneurs are often born by realising that they are leaders rather than followers. Once they have found a way to live this lifestyle, it’s all about finding the right people who share the vision and lead them effectively.

“At the end of the day, I work with a small team. I’m still involved in every aspect of all the businesses, but it works, because you don’t have those layers of bureaucracy to slow you down and you don’t have to ask for permission. With everyone contributing, you can get ahead of your competition and you take out all the obstacles to success.”

“Even with big businesses and governments that are full of executives, politicians, and policy makers the final decisions are made by one or two people, it’s just the way the structures work. The key to success is to have one clear direction that everyone is pulling towards.”

“That’s sort of how it worked for me,” Mr Ivany concludes, “and then basically I’ve continued that way of doing things across a number of different organisations, and it’s been effective and it’s been helpful, hopefully. What I’m most proud of, in a sense, is that every organisation I’ve been involved with are still thriving today.”

Peter Ivany has had an entrepreneurial career that has spanned more than 40 years.  During this time, he has worked through the highs and lows that comes with the territory of hard work, determination, and strong business practices. He counts himself fortunate to be able to take this opportunity to use part of his wealth to give back to the Australian community. For more information on Mr Ivany’s investment firm, visit

Suntory Oceania: A new multi-beverage partnership in Australia and New Zealand

In August 2023, Beam Suntory and Frucor Suntory announced an exciting new partnership, Suntory Oceania, as the region’s new A$3B multi-beverage powerhouse.

Underpinned by quality craftsmanship and a strong sense of purpose, Suntory Oceania will deliver a combined portfolio of over 40 market-leading brands, powered by two local manufacturing sites, five distribution centres and more than 1,500 employees, to create the fourth-largest ANZ beverage group.

Preparation has already started to ensure the partnership is ready to go to market from mid-2025 in Australia and 2026 in New Zealand, with over 400 roles to hire for in the coming two years.

We spoke recently with the two leaders driving the creation of this transformative partnership – Darren Fullerton, CEO of Frucor Suntory Oceania, and Mark Hill, Managing Director of Beam Suntory Oceania – about the ambitions of their global parent company, Suntory Group, and how the new business model has the potential to ignite the local beverage market across Australia and New Zealand.

A global leader in beverages, Suntory Group offers a diverse portfolio of products, including premium spirits, Ready‐to‐Drink (RTD) alcohol, and energy and coffee drinks

Unlocking opportunity

As a global leader in the beverage industry, Suntory Group offers a diverse portfolio of products, from premium spirits, beer, wine, Ready‐to‐Drink (RTD) alcohol beverages, to brewed teas, bottled water, still and carbonated soft drinks, and energy and coffee drinks, along with health and wellness products.

By bringing the best of Suntory together, the sister companies, Beam Suntory and Frucor Suntory plan to create something totally unique for its global business and the local marketplace. Hill and Fullerton ascribe this to their commitment to the ‘Yatte Minahare’ spirit – a Japanese term that means to dream big, take on challenges and never give up. This uncompromising spirit has driven the passion for the project, a massive undertaking which will allow Suntory to manage its complete multi-beverage portfolio and ANZ supply chain.

This confidence from Suntory is understandable, with both businesses outperforming the market across key segments and the partnership unlocking greater agility and more opportunities for future portfolio innovation.

“For Suntory, Australia and New Zealand is historically [Beam Suntory’s] third largest global market in alcohol, beyond their home markets of the US and also Japan,” Hill says. “It’s a very important strategic market, hence the level of investment we’re seeing behind this initiative.”

“Suntory sees this as a major opportunity to significantly change its footing in Australia and New Zealand,” Fullerton adds. “Both businesses have been leading successfully in growth categories. There’s much more that we can bring together from Suntory to our partners and consumers, as well as more career opportunities for our people. We really see this as a chance to unleash our potential.”

In the summer of 2025, the Suntory Oceania partnership will go live in Australia, following suit in New Zealand at the start of 2026. Critical to the delivery of this vision is a brand new, state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facility in Ipswich, Queensland. The $400M price tag makes it the largest FMCG investment in a single site in the last decade.

The Suntory team will be able to manufacture 20 million cases at first production with the opportunity to scale to 50 million cases. Working alongside portfolio production sites in New Zealand, North America, Europe and Japan, the new facility will significantly expand capability and capacity.

In 2025, the delivery of a brand new, $400M state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facility will be launched in Ipswich, Queensland (artist impression)

The Suntory Oceania partnership presents a change for Beam Suntory, who historically has worked with Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) to locally manage the manufacture and distribution of its portfolio across ANZ.

“We’ve had a very successful long-term relationship with CCEP,” Hill continues. “To the point where last year we assumed the number one position in the RTD category in this marketplace, which is currently the strongest performing of all the alcohol categories.”

With the construction of Suntory’s new Queensland facility well underway, the timing was right to establish a new partnership within the “One Suntory” family.

“Discussions have already started with the retailers and there is a lot of excitement,” Fullerton adds. “They need agitators and disruptors, they need people to think differently, and that’s what we want to represent to them.”

There is little doubt this is a pace change for Suntory, with indications that this partnership is just the start of something even bigger for the group – a prototype for how it sees the future of its global structure.

A legacy of ‘Growing for Good’

For over 120 years, ‘Growing for Good’ has been woven into the fabric of Suntory’s identity. The corporation recognises it is sustained by the gifts of nature and water and works hard to protect the ecosystems that deliver water which is central to its operations. With a company purpose focused on ‘inspiring the brilliance of life’, Suntory has set ambitious goals, including 50 per cent Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction from its direct operations and a 35 per cent reduction of plant water intensity by 2030.

As both leaders prepare to embark on the transformative journey of creating Suntory Oceania, it is evident that sustainability occupies a central role in their future strategies.

“We’re making really good progress against our commitments around water reduction, packaging, CO2 emissions, and recyclability,” Fullerton says. “But the biggest single representation of our sustainability strategy is the greenfield plant we’re building in Queensland. We’re going to be super proud of this facility for so many reasons.”

In August 2023, Beam Suntory and Frucor Suntory announced an exciting new partnership, Suntory Oceania, as the region’s new A$3B multi-beverage powerhouse

Collaborating closely with Japanese teams for the facility’s design and construction, the new Australian venture will achieve at least net-zero status. This impressive feat will be made possible through strategic sustainable technologies, including 14 kilometres of solar panels, biomass boiler and a solar power purchase agreement.

Their sustainable ambitions go far beyond Australian borders, with many of Suntory’s global brands also pushing the envelope when it comes to ‘going green’.

“Sustainability is a significant focus on our brand agenda,” remarks Hill. “One big call out is Maker’s Mark, one of the first global brands to get a B Corporation Certification. Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword for Maker’s Mark, it’s at the very core of everything it stands for.”

Maker’s Mark has secured the prestigious B Corporation Certification, marking a historic milestone. It becomes the world’s largest distillery and the first in Kentucky’s renowned Bourbon Country to attain this esteemed recognition. This certification underscores the brand’s unwavering commitment to fostering a more inclusive and sustainable economy. It serves as a pivotal marker in the brand’s environmentally conscious mission to ‘Make Your Mark. Leave No Trace’.

Shaping the future

For Mark Hill and Darren Fullerton, work is well underway to build the foundations of a strong personal relationship as the two leaders embark on this new business venture. In clear mutual agreement, Hill comments, “The benefits of working within the Suntory family is we know immediately we’re working with partners that share our values.”

“We’re committed to building a One Suntory Oceania culture. We’ll set the ways of working, so that it absolutely feels like a close partnership,” Fullerton says. “What that does require in our early stages is for me and Mark to stay really close to each other in terms of our major decisions, and there’s a lot of governance that includes our global stakeholders as well.”

Darren Fullerton, CEO of Frucor Suntory Oceania, and Mark Hill, Managing Director of Beam Suntory Oceania will deliver a combined portfolio of over 40 market-leading brands with more than 1,500 employees

The legacy of the new Suntory Oceania partnership promises to be nothing short of remarkable, unlocking the full potential of Suntory as a global organisation here in ANZ. It’s poised to reshape the beverage landscape across multiple categories.

Fullerton concludes with ambition, “We want to see this taken around the world as the poster child of how Suntory could operate across its different businesses. Together we will help shape Suntory into the future.”

With such an impressive long-term vision for the future, the partnership between Beam Suntory and Frucor Suntory is a fascinating next chapter in the history of Suntory.

Find out more about Suntory Oceania by visiting

Wall-to-wall dud politicians who have never held a real job

Everyone knows the problem. Our governments are run by politicians who tend to have only ever done one thing in their careers, which is to play politics. With very few exceptions, they are not innovators or entrepreneurs or problem solvers or even community leaders or volunteers. The stunning truth is that most have never held real jobs outside their political party or its patronage network.

This is the biggest political threat to Australia’s future. Nothing else comes close. Complex public decisions about the nation’s future are made by people with arguably the least experience or preparation for making them. Yet business-as-usual in politics and government is hard to buck. Tinkering with minor adjustments won’t change the prevailing culture, but changing the whole political culture seems too big and too hard for most of us to get our heads around.

So what do we do?

In thinking about the problem of career politicians, the unrepresentative character of our political parties, and the stagnation that flows out of parliaments into every walk of life in Australia, there are three reforms that seem pivotal to our ability to change any of this.

1. The first is a requirement that members of parliament have worked for 10 years in a real job. This is easy to do, by making it part of the eligibility requirements to nominate for election to Parliament. There is already a rigorous process in place to determine eligibility based on citizenship which requires documentation from family members, stat decs, etc, which excludes many people. A requirement for a minimum of 10 years in a real job (defined to exclude employment by a politician, party or union) would be no more rigorous or difficult to implement.

At a guess, this would exclude 80% of ALP politicians, 60% of Liberals, and 40% of Green MPs. This would be a good start in getting a more diverse and representative pool of MPs.

But more fundamentally, it is important in recovering the original purpose of representation in a self-governing democracy, which is that a term in parliament to represent your peers is an opportunity for ‘service’, for a limited period of time, as a temporary break from your normal day job. It is not a ‘career’.

2. Because politics is not a ‘career’, we need a limit on the number of terms in parliament that can be served. I favour 3 terms in the lower house, 2 in the upper house, then back to your day job.

3. The third is replacing the notion of a ‘salary’ for MPs with an allowance which recognises the term served is not an open-ended ‘job’ but a limited period of service to your peers.

This is actually what we had in Australia in the heyday of our colonial governments, from 1854 to 1900. These were the years in which our public institutions, infrastructure and culture were established, and these things occurred under the leadership of parliaments which did not pay ‘salaries’ to their members. MPs received an allowance. It was only with the formation of the ALP in 1891 that the push for MP salaries gained sway.

In the debate about why we have wall-to-wall dud politicians, the issue of MP salaries quickly arises and throws everyone off the track. An allowance of $100K pa would deter the duds and attract only those who want to serve for a limited period then get back to their day job.

This problem won’t go away until we take steps to ensure it goes away. Everyone in the country who is not a serving politician has a shared interest in fixing it.

Vern Hughes is the Director of Civil Society Australia,

Royal Nut Company: A new large state-of-the-art facility delivering premium foods to business and end consumers alike

Royal Nut Company MD Sanjay Mirchandani in The Australian Business Executive

A family-owned business based in Brunswick, Royal Nut Company is dedicated to sourcing, manufacturing, and supplying the highest quality nuts, nut spreads, dried fruit, legumes and grains, health foods, confectionery, snack foods, and spices.

Managing Director Sanjay Mirchandani is a seasoned manufacturing and distribution general manager across multiple industries, countries, and languages. After developing his early professional career with BHP, he joined his father’s business five years ago and is now steering it to become a market leader. It is an exciting time for Royal Nut Company, with a new state-of-the-art facility opening next year that promises to catapult the business to the next level. Mr Mirchandani spoke with us recently about the beginnings of the company, the dedication to premium products that differentiates it from competitors, and the exciting new manufacturing and retail developments that make Royal Nut Company one to keep an eye on in 2024.

Grand expansion

“The Royal Nut Company was founded in 1987,” Mr Mirchandani explains, “in the foodie hub of Brunswick, located in Melbourne. Back in the 80s there was a strong Middle Eastern influence, a very open market vibe. Originally, it was a small warehouse supplying exotic nuts, legumes, and grains to small local businesses. There was also a direct-to-public store at the front of the factory.”

Nearly 20 years after Mr Mirchandani’s father purchased the business, family-owned and operated Royal Nut Company is now making a significant investment to combine its two manufacturing and distribution sites into one state-of-the-art facility, located in the premier food manufacturing hub of Scoresby in Melbourne.

“This purpose-built facility is 9000 m2 in size, and that more than doubles our existing footprint. The facility design was led by industry experts, and it’s very meticulous in the way that it’s designed. It uses stringent food safety standards and lean manufacturing practices, and it’s all tailored to the Royal Nut Company value proposition.”

These significant upgrades to the company’s manufacturing and warehousing equipment, due for completion in 2024, will help it supply customers more efficiently, with the right product, on time, with fewer issues. A strong presence will remain in Brunswick, with the famous Royal gold building serving businesses and end consumers alike.

Royal Nut Company MD Sanjay Mirchandani in The Australian Business Executive
The company is best known for its premium grade, freshly roasted and flavoured nuts, which are prepared onsite every day

“From our humble beginnings, the business has come a long way. Last year we sold over 3,500 SKUs, and we have approximately 90 staff across our two manufacturing and distribution sites. We supply to major and independent retailers, including Coles, Woolworths, as well as other manufacturers whose final products end up on retail shelves.”

The company also supplies top restaurants, cafes and everything in between, including multiple customers within the Queen Victoria and South Melbourne Markets, as well as businesses across Australia and overseas.

“We’ve expanded and modernised our retail stores across Melbourne, so we now have multiple stores. We also have an e-commerce store, which grew significantly through the covid pandemic. We have a similar application that we’re about to launch for our B2B customers, where they’ll be able to order in a similar e-commerce style.”

The company is best known for its premium grade, freshly roasted and flavoured nuts, which are prepared onsite every day. It also sells freshly roasted, ground and pasted nut butters, trail mixes and spice blends, and an expansive range to make up your own muesli or granola blend, coffee blend, cakes, or baked goods.

Royal Nut Company MD Sanjay Mirchandani in The Australian Business Executive
Managing Director Sanjay Mirchandani is making a significant investment to combine its two manufacturing and distribution sites into one state-of-the-art facility

“It’s the place to come if you want to make an ideal picnic, entertain and surprise your guests or loved ones with a diverse range of snacks that perhaps you wouldn’t have seen before. You’d be pretty hard pressed not to find the nut you’re looking for at Royal Nut Company.”

The company will also be increasing the size and product range of its Malvern retail store in early 2024. All of these exciting changes will produce significant capacity for the company to grow and more efficiently supply existing and new customers. It will also be looking to acquire new capability in the food manufacturing space.

Premium products

There are many different varieties and grades in the dried goods space, particularly when it comes to nuts. Many of the products sold in supermarkets are typically inferior, are not fresh or whole, which is usually telling of the overall quality.

“What we specialise and focus on is really the premium products across all these categories. It’s the grade, the size of the nut, the limited imperfections, the way we package it – we take the majority of the air out of the packaging to keep it fresh. What also differentiates us from our competitors is the roasting and flavouring techniques.”

A family-owned business based in Brunswick, Royal Nut Company is dedicated to sourcing, manufacturing, and supplying the highest quality nuts

The company uses multiple methods of roasting and flavouring, which have been honed and improved over decades. The Royal Nut Company retail stores offer smaller packs and accessibility direct to consumer, which sets it apart in the market.

“Finally, our passion and knowledge that we share with our customers [is a differentiator], both in our office, for our B2B customers, but also in our retail stores. You can really come in and have a chat about what it is you’re trying to do, what’s the best product, what’s the best value for money, and how to use it all.”

The food space in Australia is ever-evolving, one current trend is the growth of health consciousness, which has become a big focus in such an active nation. This has seen a rise in claims that products are vegan, organic, kosher, or include natural flavours and colours, which can often be difficult for consumers to verify.

“It’s very important to be transparent and clear about what you’re claiming,” Mr Mirchandani says, “and that’s something that is difficult for food suppliers to manage, but very important to get right nonetheless.”

Another current trend is the competitiveness of the Australian manufacturing sector in comparison to overseas, with the reliability of supply, quality, and cost of production in Australia offering excellent value, especially post-pandemic.

“Royal Nut Company has really shown a lot of resilience through the pandemic, particularly with the economic downturns that we’re experiencing at the moment. The company has learnt and adapted quite quickly in the face of adversity, and we’ve really stayed true to our loyal customer base.”

With almost 30 years of experience in the industry, food lovers and businesses alike looking for high quality products are invited to reach out to Mr Mirchandani and the passionate team at the Royal Nut Company. Find out more about the Royal Nut Company by visiting

Qantas and its executives have failed the Australian public 

Qantas and its executives have failed the Australian public in The Australian Business Executive

The once proud and honoured Qantas brand has been damaged, and while the damage may be rectified, the Qantas Airways Board and senior executives need to tread carefully and with clear purpose. It was bad enough that the former Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce AC, left under the ever-darkening clouds of scandals involving lost baggage, phantom flights, high airfares, and illegal staff sackings. I would argue that the decision by Qantas to appoint Vanessa Hudson as CEO is now fatally flawed and may result in the airline struggling to regain the confidence of the Australian travelling public.

Bumping up a senior executive to the CEO role is only a good policy when there is no change required within the organisation, and when things are going along ‘swimmingly’. Alas, neither is the case here. Ms Hudson cannot claim ignorance of the problems and failures of the past few years, because to do so would indicate incompetence in her CFO and senior executive roles. She was right there in the inner sanctum. She also cannot claim knowledge of these issues, as this would make her either complicit in the decision-making, or ineffective in influencing change as a senior executive. Furthermore, the Qantas Board, who appointed her as CEO, is now so discredited that any decision and appointments should be nullified.

Does this mean she cannot resurrect the Qantas brand? Not at all. However, the task for anyone in her position would seem insurmountable. Following years of constant and growing criticism a deft hand will be required. An approach that ‘smacks’ of rhetoric will not work, and the Australian public has become more skilful in identifying tokenism in the wake of numerous State and Federal government’s hyperbole. Her recent media appearance was straight out of the management 101 textbook. The whole event seemed fake and manufactured and may not be sufficient to reassure Australians that the culture of Qantas will change, or that she is the right person to bring about the change necessary.

I know how difficult this process can be. I was recruited to the role of CEO to bring about change in an organisation that had recorded substantial losses for consecutive years and had an extremely poor internal culture. The organisation relied on its reputation for survival and that was not going to work. There was competition from within the organisation for the CEO position and it took enormous bravery and resilience for the Board Chair and the Board itself to support my appointment. I am aware that, as is often the case, inside the boardroom the decision to appoint me was not unanimous. Fortunately, it was unified publicly and as a member organisation that was vitally important. Rarely do the people whom an organisation serves understand what is going on behind the scenes.

Once in the role, the true decay became evident and one of my first tasks was to evaluate the organisational structure, and in particular the senior management team. This necessitated the removal of senior personnel, and a complete restructure of the organisation including the creation of new positions. Even then the culture was not instantly repaired, and I became aware of embedded issues such as largesse, a sense of entitlement, power struggles, and unacceptable practices bordering on criminality. Further change was required. Further changes were made.

Had it not been for the determination of the Board to appoint an external person, rather than make the easy decision to appoint from within, I have no doubt the rancid culture would have continued. I confidently say that with knowledge of matters I cannot and should not disclose.

Qantas seems to have forgotten the legacy that comes with their brand. My position as CEO was quite different to that of the Qantas role as I did not have shareholders to contend with. I did however have a large membership base, and that can be just as challenging when you come from outside the vocational area of a membership organisation. The Qantas shareholders would have been very happy with the profits and dividends over many years. The customers were not so pleased and this resulted in shareholders being hurt financially.

Keeping shareholders and customers equally satisfied requires a deft hand. Shareholders care about profits and the reputation of the company. And rightfully so. Customers are more concerned with reliability, safety, service, and pricing. It seems that over time, Qantas focused too much on profits to the detriment of the customer. That can be the only explanation for the position Qantas finds itself in today. Ms Hudson has said so herself in her stage-managed apology to travellers.

There is a balancing act that Qantas seems to have forgotten. Undoubtedly profits are good news for shareholders. However, the loss of reputation, and the resultant loss of patronage (read income), means that the only way to maintain profits is to cut costs. This can be done transparently with sound communication, or it can be done by tinkering around the fringes of sound corporate practice. How does an organisation forget that if your clients (travellers) are happy and confident, the revenue flows? That was the history of Qantas that the organisation seems to have forgotten.

The third group that is often overlooked in these decisions are the grass-roots employees. In my case, I could feel the collective breath-holding within the organisation as I started as the unknown CEO with a clear agenda for change. How pleasing it was to finally see the vast majority of my staff begin to breathe again and grow in confidence when positive changes were made. They felt secure and valued, and their work environment improved. But that took months not weeks, if not years. On each occasion that a person is moved on, the remainder of the staff wonder if they are next, waiting for the second shoe to drop. They worry about their futures, and it takes a team-effort from the senior management to reassure them.

The announcement of a proposed $20M+ ‘golden handshake’ for Alan Joyce must have rankled the Qantas workers; it certainly did not go unnoticed by the travelling public. To put it in context, the original proposed payout to Mr Joyce amounts to more than four times what the average worker would hope to earn in an entire lifetime of work. These large numbers are thrown around by the media and rarely scrutinised. I doubt the average member of the public does the calculation as to what that sort of money means in comparison to their income; they just know it is a lot. The federal government certainly would not quibble about that payment, as they would be likely to receive nearly half of it in tax. The shareholders would have compared the proposed payout figure to the billions of dollars in profit Qantas has made year upon year and probably considered it was acceptable. It is known now that the Qantas Board is re-considering its position on the payout. Maybe too little, too late. Think about it. More than four times what an average Australian work will earn in their entire lifetime.

So, getting back to Ms Hudson. Can she turn things around? There is no doubt that she could, however I question whether her position is now tenable given the level of scrutiny she will face. The culture and business model will need to change substantially and quickly. This is a culture in which Ms Hudson held a senior position for decades; a culture in which she was entrenched. How often do we hear organisations and governments say they will conduct a review and change things, AFTER the proverbial hits the fan? It is the responsibility of boards and senior executives (and governments) to regularly monitor their environment and make changes BEFORE they need to go public and make apologies and promises. All too often they fail.

There are a number of hurdles for Ms Hudson to clear in her first year. She seems to be following the ‘The First 100 Days’ formula and no doubt the public relations expense column in the Qantas Airways accounts will need more space. Then there is the nearly 20% fall in the Qantas share price over the past six months (the largest hit of 14% coming in the last month). There is also the matter of the 1,700 workers illegally sacked with a potential payout of hundreds of millions of dollars.

What does she have going in her favour? First and foremost, the people of Australia want Qantas to be successful and they want their pride in the airline restored. Australians identify with the ‘flying kangaroo’ brand. As glib as it may sound Australians were proud of the reference to Qantas in the movie Rain Man. This is an organisation that people will support, if, and only if, their faith can be restored.

Ms Hudson has inherited a basket-case and may yet be another female to tumble over the ‘glass cliff’ following an appointment during a crisis when the risk of failure is at its highest. Chairman Richard Goyder does not seem to be in sync with Ms Hudson with his own media statement focusing more on justifying his decisions rather than standing with Ms Hudson and accepting the failures. This does not bode well for Ms Hudson. Arguably both their positions are on shaky grounds. As I write this the Qantas pilots are calling for Mr Goyder to stand down. This pressure can only increase.

While the current board and Chair remain, it is unlikely that Ms Hudson will be publicly removed. That is not to say the backroom chatter will stop at board level, particularly if the shareholders get their words heard at the November AGM. She may very well fall on her own sword, albeit with a subtle shove and an undisclosed incentive. Unfortunately for her, the general public do not see her appointment as change; they see it as more of the same.

The task of restoring faith in our national airline, in rebuilding trust with workers and customers alike, in maintaining positive outcomes for shareholders, and in repairing the brand will be a challenge regardless of who undertakes it. It is hard to see how this change can be brought about without a substantial restructure of the company, a regenerated board, and the willingness to get rid of some of those who were the closest to Mr Joyce and supported his actions. Ms Hudson was one of those people.

Gil King GAICD GradDipCrim BA PolStu DipBlgSurv is a former CEO and Victoria Police Detective,

Long Covid: The economic hangover of government stimulus

The COVID-19 pandemic needs no introduction. You would have to be a member of a primitive tribe on an isolated island or be in a coma for the past several years to not know about COVID-19. Its reach, effect and power have changed the world to such a degree that it is measured against the Global Financial Crisis and September 11 (2001) in terms of its global impact. Emerging in late 2019, “the Coronavirus” had far-reaching economic consequences, with one of the most significant being the increased cost of living in many countries around the world. As governments attempt to grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic, nations have implemented various measures to address the steep rise in costs and provide relief to everyday people on the ground.

The key factors contributing to the increased cost of living

Supply chain disruptions

Lockdowns and restrictions on movement disrupted global supply chains, leading to shortages and higher prices for various goods. The inability to access raw materials and components has affected industries ranging from manufacturing to tech, ultimately affecting consumer prices. There are still backlogs for many goods post-COVID. An extreme example being the estimated five to 10 year wait time for a Rolex Daytona watch.


One of the most prominent factors driving the increased cost of living is inflation. During COVID-19, governments worldwide implemented monetary and fiscal policies to stimulate their economies, such as low-interest rates and large-scale financial assistance programs (handing out assistance funds to citizens). These policies have increased the money supply and, in turn, driven up prices, leading to inflation.

Housing market

The housing markets in both North America and Australia have experienced significant surges in demand, with many individuals seeking larger homes or relocating due to remote work opportunities. This has driven up property prices and rental costs, making housing less affordable for many people. Build times have been blown out also. What was once considered normal for a build time (around 9 months) has blown out to the 2-to-3-year mark for a residential home.

Energy prices

The cost of energy, including gas and electricity, has risen in many countries, contributing to increased household expenses. The family budget has been hit hard in both North America and Australia. According to the ACCC’s (Australia) report, the state of South Australia experienced a 9.1 per cent increase in their household quarterly median electricity bills between the September quarters 2021 and 2022, which was the highest of all National Electricity Market regions for the country. In the US, average consumer electricity prices rose by up to 20% in many states from November 2022 against a year earlier according to the US Energy Information Administration.


The pandemic highlighted a new emphasis and importance of healthcare, leading to an overall increased demand for medical services in most countries and, in some cases, higher healthcare costs for individuals and governments. On the whole, the healthcare sectors of both Australia and the US, came under great strain with logistical demands soaring during and after COVID.

Government economic interventions in the United States

The US, like many countries, has faced the challenge of addressing the increased cost of living post-COVID head on. In any economic crisis the decision of whether to act or not and what to do is a critical one. Governments must weigh the costs and benefits as well as future costs carefully. In the US, a range of key responses were taken.

Infrastructure investment

The US federal government passed a substantial infrastructure bill, aimed at improving transportation, broadband access, and clean energy. This investment, based on bringing future work projects forward, was expected to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, which could indirectly help alleviate the cost of living for US citizens and promote economic activity.

Healthcare reform

The Senate debate over healthcare reform continues, with discussions on expanding access and controlling or limiting prices. The US government’s approach to healthcare policy will play a significant role in addressing rising healthcare expenses but ultimately the cost is going to be borne somewhere by the taxpayer. The conservative side of the aisle have continued to promote the need for an entire shakedown of the sector with a free-enterprise solution to the healthcare service supply.

Fiscal stimulus

The US government implemented several stimulus packages to provide financial relief to individuals and businesses across all states. These packages included direct payments to citizens through social welfare and tax mediums and increased unemployment benefits. While these measures helped many Americans make ends meet in the short term, they also added to the federal deficit and have contributed to the increased inflation and cost of living crisis.

Monetary policy

The US Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near zero for many months to stimulate borrowing and spending. While this has supported economic activity in the associated economic recovery, it has also contributed to rising inflation. Where more money is available, more spending occurs, and prices go up.

Housing initiatives

In an effort to address the housing affordability crisis, the Biden administration have proposed significant investments in affordable housing projects and initiatives to help first-time homebuyers. In 2023 Congress introduced 10 various bills offering tax credits and cash grants to home buyers. These include a one-time $15,000 “First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit” under the LIFT Act, which also provides a lower than market mortgage interest rate for eligible home buyers.

Government planning in Australia

Australia is economically unique when compared against many other nations. Australia’s particular challenges, size of land, geographic position and respective resources provide for a different landscape of economic “strengths and weaknesses.” The Australian federal Government have also responded to the increased cost of living post-COVID.

Economic support

The Australian government introduced various economic support measures, including wage subsidies like the “JobKeeper” program during COVID, to help businesses retain employees during the pandemic lockdown periods. These fiscal measures aimed at preventing widespread job losses and supporting income levels for households. Reliance on these measures for some business only delayed the inevitable, however.

Infrastructure investment

Similar to the United States, Australia has embarked on significant infrastructure projects to boost economic activity and create jobs. In a similar vein, these projects were largely the act of “bringing forward” future planned Investments in transportation, renewable energy, and digital infrastructure. These projects are expected to have long-term economic benefits, however.

Housing policies

Australia has experienced a housing affordability crisis for years, which the government has sought to address through policies promoting affordable housing developments and first-time homebuyer grants. Building stimulus payments during COVID have served to increase demand in the housing market greatly leading to a massive increase in housing input material costs and a major delay in individuals having their home built.

Energy Transition

The Australian federal government has set ambitious goals for transitioning to renewable energy sources. Investments into clean energy and technology are designed to reduce long-term energy costs and address climate change concerns as well as deal with the finite energy resource issue. This race towards non-fossil fuel-based energy has helped to increase the cost of energy in the immediate term however and households have experienced the pain in their back pockets.

Government market intervention

Both the United States and Australia have employed some various shared applications of market intervention to address the increased cost of living. Central banks in both countries have played a significant role in managing economic conditions through monetary policy. They have used tools like interest rates and quantitative easing to influence borrowing costs, inflation, and economic growth. Adjusted taxation measures have also been a powerful tool for income redistribution. Progressive tax policies can help reduce income inequality and support those facing higher living costs in the short term but can also hinder economic activity and the desire to engage in new business.

Governments on both sides of the globe have also run various social welfare programs to provide targeted assistance to those in need. These programs include unemployment benefits, food assistance, and housing support. They have their place and very few would begrudge a hand up in a difficult time. Some evidence suggests that citizens can become reliant on such measures and this may have the effect of decreased workforce participation. Governments across the world have also provided trillions of dollars’ worth of subsidies and incentives to specific industries or activities they want to promote. These can have the effect of promoting a faster rate of growth and development as seen in the renewable energy sector.


The increased cost of living post-COVID has presented a significant challenge for governments worldwide. In the United States and Australia, governments have responded with a combination of fiscal stimulus, monetary policy, infrastructure investment, and market intervention. While these measures have provided relief and support for their citizens, they have also raised questions about their long-term economic and fiscal consequences. Yesterday’s debt and enjoyment is tomorrow’s pain.

Balancing the need to address rising living costs with maintaining economic stability and fiscal responsibility is a complex task. The success of these government plans will depend on their effectiveness in managing run-away inflation, promoting sustainable economic growth, and ensuring that the benefits reach those most affected by the increased cost of living. As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, these challenges will remain at the forefront of economic policy discussions in both countries and around the globe. As men and women across the globe continue to tighten their belts and exercise greater and greater personal austerity, one wonders when and if, the normal cost of living might ever return.

Dan Hadley (MBA, BCOMM, CMC, IML) is a Management Consultant and Economist based in Adelaide, South Australia. His services include strategic advisory services, risk management and consultation in Quality, Safety and Environmental Management systems as well as economic consultation,

In the court of opinion, the rulebook is win at all costs

The ongoing debate over polling results in the run up to elections, decisions, referendums and policy debates is a feature of our 24 hour news cycle. Gone are the days when voters would consider a weekly or monthly opinion poll conducted by global publication Time Magazine (US Presidential hopefuls), the Bulletin (Australian political party gallup polls), the Washington Post (NAFTA or a contentious bill before the Senate) or even the more regional Led Journal de Montreal (the vicious world of ice hockey teams and their star celebrities).

Toxic, social media driven conversations that undermine the social fabrice, political will and national cohesion of liberal democracies abound due to the ease of access, widespread publication opportunities and cynical post 911 conspiracy theory era that we inhabit. That debates over police powers, intelligence protocols, hostage swapping (as recent as the Iran handover) and aid to Ukraine should be bantered about by poorly informed and often antagonistic commentators is bad enough. But the core problem is not what is debated or how. It is about whose agenda is being pursued in this fake news, distorted commentary, disinformation heavy environment where fortunes can be made by pushing zero quality analysis in the face of institutional and national interest experts. The war on experts (that was given free rein during the pandemic) has a price: a dissolution of the collaboration between generations, classes, regions and interests in any liberal pluralist society.

A key feature of the post war pre 1990s liberal state was the competition between alternate but responsible choices: old school Dems versus Republicans, traditional Liberals versus Progressive Conservatives, social democrats versus mainstream centre right anti populists. It was spirited, it was tough, it was a focus on policy and personality without dropping to insanely conspiratorial concepts of a deep state. This was electoral politics that relied on balance, stability and certainty of national interests. No NATO country was ever overcome by extremists and no right wing military government that was anti-communist survived the end of the Cold War.

Today’s narrative is tik tok entertainment, Facebook solemnity and Snapchat vitality. It is not the politics of endeavour, investment or caution. It is the politics of sound bites, spin, image before substance. It is also a security danger. We have electoral cycles at the mercy of hostile states. We have electoral systems that have become susceptible to electronic and media manipulation. We have debates (the Voice or the Channel Boats) that are simplified and yet also weaponized against our own societies. The rulebook is win at all costs. The rules are there to be thwarted.

Voters are less inclined to believe institutions and less inclined to deal with the realities. We have a land war in Europe. The last time we had that was 1945. We have a world superpower flexing their muscles in an irresponsible way in the Taiwan Straits (think Imperial Germany and the Moroccan crisis). We have technological harm that is eroding our communications, distribution network and social relations. No different than the rise of the railways, steam power and wireless. Rather than Marconi creating a chance to make a killing on the stock market or line some politician’s pocket, the social media conglomerates are more powerful than nation states and have their own interests to pursue.

Those entrusted with defending us and securing our future are playing catch up. No James Bond wizardry for MI5 and no George Clooney ending for the CIA. It is a hard road for those preparing for the next day’s cyber attacks (reported by some to be over 4000 a day just in the UK) let alone a NATO wide rearmament program worthy of 1938. We are in hard times. We need to recognise it.

Big data, quantitative measures, AI and the pure math of voter opinion is a huge casino level gamble. We need to beat the House each time to just stay in the same spot. We need to start the conversations that require a mobilisation of peoples as much as capital, tech and narrative.

Noel Hadjimichael is a London based public policy consultant in the security, defence and civil society space with relevant experience working in politics, the civil service, industry and the charitable sectors,

Australia’s ageing workforce is about to put severe budget pressure on the next generation

Of the seven fastest growing areas of government spending in the budget, all but two relate to health and ageing. Our ageing population has a vast impact on our economy. Our changing demographics mean more money needs to be spent delivering the services to support older Australians. At the same time, the ratio of workers to retirees changes and the tax burden on our working age population increases.

Twenty years ago the issue of our ageing population was front and centre of the national debate. Peter Costello thrust the issue onto the national agenda with the release of the Intergenerational Report in 2002.

Twenty years on and there seems to be less focus on the issue but the challenges are as real as ever.

There was an updated Intergenerational Report released in 2021 which didn’t receive the attention it deserved. It warned that in 40 years’ time, the number of people aged over 65 years will have more than doubled and the number of people over 85 years will have more than quadrupled. In contrast, the number of people under 18 will have fallen. There was an update to this report earlier this year and not many people noticed.

Obviously, those under 65 are most likely to be paying income tax. The bad news for younger Australians (and our economy in general) is that our economy is becoming more reliant on income tax as a source of revenue.

Over the next decade the share of tax revenue the government receives from income tax is set to increase. Other sources of tax revenue such as company tax and the GST look set to decline or remain static.

We don’t want an economy that is too reliant on income tax to pay for our essential spending programs. That’s why the GST was a necessary reform. Prior to the GST, the government relied on income tax for around half of all receipts. This reliance on income tax fell to 42% after the GST was introduced. This improvement is set to be undone with income tax set to reach 48.4% of total receipts in the next few years. And it will continue to climb in the absence of reform.

Broadening our tax base through the introduction of the GST has made our economy more resilient, and less susceptible to shocks (such as increases in unemployment).

But there is worse news still for the working age population as a recent report from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) demonstrates. Our budget isn’t just becoming more reliant on income tax for revenue but the tax rate experienced by workers is increasing.

The average tax rate paid by workers looks set to hit an historic high of 27% in the next decade, as the table below demonstrates.

Source: ATO Taxation Statistics, 2023-24 Budget, and PBO analysis.

There are modest reductions in tax rates still to flow through with the Stage 3 tax cuts. But they look set to be eaten up by bracket creep as people earn more and get pushed onto higher tax brackets.

No one can credibly argue that the Stage 3 tax cuts are too generous. Far from it. The PBO estimates these tax cuts will actually fail to address growing bracket creep.

In 2010, income tax revenue represented around 9% of our GDP. In the 2030’s, income tax will have increased to over 13% of our GDP. The Stage 3 tax cuts will only lead to a 0.5% reduction in this measure — barely a blip. At the end of the day the proportion of revenue the government gets from income tax continues to climb disproportionately when compared to other taxes such as the GST and company tax.

The PBO outlines the extent of this problem:
‘For some people, especially those on relatively low incomes, bracket creep can reduce workforce participation. At higher incomes, bracket creep can strengthen incentives for tax planning and structuring. A high reliance on personal income tax can also leave government revenues vulnerable to changes in the composition of the economy. For example, the ageing population is expected to result in a decline in net taxpayers as a share of the total population. Many retirees pay little to no personal income tax because they have lower incomes and access to age-related tax concessions.’

We have a system in need of reform. As Howard and Costello knew, the longer you ignore these structural problems the harder they are to address.

We now have a tax system where the average tax rate paid by workers is at an historic high. And the share of taxpayers is declining coupled with rising costs to support an ageing population. This creates an inequality which needs to be addressed.

We need a government with the courage to take on the two key reform challenges in tax and spending. Continuing to prop up a tax system that’s becoming less fair by the day and continuing to fund (but not redesign) ballooning welfare programs not only lacks foresight, it lacks compassion.

The next generation of taxpayers deserve a fairer system. And at the other end of the spectrum, the next generation of elderly Australians deserve a program of services that’s efficient, sustainable and guaranteed.

David Hughes is Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre:

Australian education is failing, and more money is NOT the answer

Politicians have failed our kids by centering the education policy debate on funding alone.

A decade ago the then federal opposition manufactured a claim that school funding had been ravenously cut. Scare campaigns work and money came to define the debate for the next decade.

The problem is, more money doesn’t directly translate to better student outcomes especially when it takes the focus away from what’s happening in the classroom.

Funding for our schools has been increasing for the last decade. We spend more than the OECD average on education. At the same time, we’ve experienced a decade of decline in our kids’ performance.

20 years ago, Australia ranked 4th internationally in reading, 8th in science and 11th in maths. Now we have fallen to 16th in reading, 17th in science and 29th in maths.

Australia has lost the equivalent of one year’s worth of learning over the past two decades. We were once on par with top performing nations such as Singapore. Now the average 15-year-old Singaporean is three years ahead of Australian pupils.

We also lag behind countries that we used to outperform. The UK, Canada and New Zealand have leapfrogged ahead of us in all three assessment domains. We need to look far beyond funding to halt this decline.

A study by Labor’s Andrew Leigh identified a decline in the entry scores required for our teacher workforce. While academic performance and mastery of subject matter are not sufficient conditions for effective teaching they are, unquestionably, necessary ones and higher education providers have been contemptibly cynical in trying to avoid this fact.

This is compounded by the fact that too many initial teacher education programs at Australian universities are divorced from the science of learning. They often fixate on arcane sociological theory at the expense of practical training.

The refusal of many programs to implement robust training in phonics and phonemes (the building blocks of any sound literacy instruction program) — despite several government inquiries and resulting mandates — is unforgivable. Universities and teachers unions have shown themselves time and again to be staunchly resistant to common sense reform.

This is one area of reform where the solutions don’t have to come at great cost. Fixing initial teacher education is crucial. It is also one of the few aspects of school education over which the commonwealth exerts meaningful influence. The government needs to hold universities’ feet to the fire. They could be publishing the results of minimum literacy and numeracy tests for teachers and taking action against providers that routinely admit large numbers of students who are unable to pass these tests after multiple attempts. They could also make robust training in the science of reading a condition of receiving commonwealth-supported places for their education degrees.

We also need to hold the line on external, standardised accountability metrics. The long running assault on NAPLAN and the ATAR is misguided. Removing these metrics is akin to destroying the thermometer because the room is too hot. What hope do we have of reversing the decade-plus decline in educational performance if we abandon NAPLAN, the only routine, standardised, annual piece of data? Likewise, abandoning or diluting the ATAR will not help the relatively disadvantaged. ‘Holistic’ admissions (with consideration of extra-curriculars, applicant character, personal essays et cetera) simply introduce greater subjectivity and are much more readily gamed by those with superior material resources than standardised external exams.

On top of the decline in education outcomes we should be even more troubled by the rising rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm amongst younger generations.

This is fuelled by an emerging spirit of distrust and antagonism towards our fellow Australians. We see failure, defeat and disappointment increasingly attributed to the failings of others or the failings of our wider society, culture or class.

Yet failure, defeat and disappointment are crucial factors in personal development. Inevitable setbacks are an opportunity to teach children to problem solve, bounce back and deal with stress.

These skills are more important than ever because of modern challenges — from bullying to social media pressure to academic stress.

Unless we encourage resilience, we could be left with a generation more inclined to give up in the face of these challenges. Resilient kids are happier, more successful and more productive.

David Hughes is Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre:

Rio Tinto in Australia: The origins and formation of an international resources powerhouse

Rio Tinto in Australia: The origins and formation of an international resources powerhouse in The Australian Business Executive

Rio Tinto in Australia charts Rio Tinto’s establishment and remarkable growth in Australia. From exploration in the 1950s, the acquisition of the Mary Kathleen uranium deposit, and the 1962 combination with Consolidated Zinc to form Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA).

CRA established itself as the major contributor to Australia’s post-war mining scene. CRA’s efforts contributed to some of the main building blocks of Australia’s post-war economy and the Australian mining sector – Comalco, Hamersley iron ore and the Bougainville copper operation. In the 1960s, CRA’s expenditure was at a greater rate than that for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, regarded as one of the great Australian nation building exercises, while in the twelve years after 1962, CRA contributed $2.7 billion to Australia’s balance of payments surplus of $3.3 billion. By the end of 1994, CRA had a market capitalisation of over $10 billion and was Australia’s second largest resources company and third largest company.

Many individuals played a role in CRA’s development, not least legendary mining figure, Sir Maurice Mawby, regarded as Australia’s most significant post-war mining individuals. Broken Hill born and educated, under his direction the Australian portfolio was transformed over the 1960s and early 1970s.

Rod (later Sir) Carnegie was appointed to CRA as Mawby’s successor in 1970. Aged 37, Carnegie could not have been more different to Mawby in terms of background and experience. At the time it was still rare for chief executives to be appointed from outside of the company concerned. In the case of a mining company, it was also unusual for a chief executive not to be trained as a mining engineer. Carnegie was neither. Melbourne, Oxford and Harvard university educated, Carnegie worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co in New York. Carnegie would be described as one of the nation’s brightest business executives, knighted for his services to industry at the age of 45 years.

Despite their differences, Carnegie and Mawby were both Australian nationalists, believing that it was their role to contribute to the development of Australia’s national resources and the prosperity of the country. The pursuit of profit was not a prime motive for either.

CRA projects in the 1960s and early 1970s were of Australian national significance. CRA achieved what one of its major competitors in Australia, BHP, had conveyed as inconceivable: the development of major iron ore deposits in a remote location, with no infrastructure and with production linked to international markets. CRA’s major portfolio transformation from its prior reliance on the lead and zinc assets of Broken Hill, and Mary Kathleen Uranium, was achieved with the cooperation and support of governments.

Mining development was a national effort. Mawby’s relations with prime ministers, ministers and senior departmental officials were an essential basis for this cooperation. Men like Robert Menzies and Charles Court were instrumental in facilitating bold nation building outcomes. There was a shared common interest, and appreciation of the importance of major risk capital, often sourced from overseas, while recognising the need to preserve national interests.

The relationship between CRA and the Australian Government became less productive as political anxiety and public criticism grew about the role of foreign capital and overseas control of the Australian resources sector. This was reflected in the virulent economic nationalism of the Whitlam Government and the strained relationship between the company and R. F. X. Connor as the responsible minister.

As a foreign owned and controlled company, CRA was restricted in its business opportunities in the 1970s. Carnegie’s repeated attempts for CRA to ‘gain a guernsey’ in the Australian minerals sector, generated varied plans. That ministers and senior public servants would contemplate options from public equity in CRA through to the acquisition of London parent, RTZ, to achieve the Australianisation of CRA – with CRA potentially having a similar status to that of QANTAS – reflects a government-corporate interaction of extraordinary dimensions and opportunity.

The development of the large, low-grade copper and gold deposit on Bougainville was CRA’s most complex undertaking and a remarkable achievement. CRA led the Australian Administration and Department in Canberra in many areas in terms of the interests and welfare of Bougainvilleans. The project was informed by an enlightened perspective of how a modern industrial venture could be best managed and how engagement, based on anthropological advice, could be handled with the populace of a mainly subsistence, tribal based country. Yet, the circumstances of the mine’s closure and the ensuing civil war on Bougainville, as well as the inability for improved tailings disposal arrangements or extensive environmental remediation work to be undertaken, have informed the critical assessments of the operation. The tragic events that occurred on Bougainville reveal the complexity of the challenges that CRA encountered and was unable to fully anticipate or manage.

The process of CRA’s naturalisation was Carnegie’s major achievement, yet not without professional consequences for him. CRA could not compete on an equal footing for business opportunities with the likes of BHP, Western Mining Corporation and CSR. A change in CRA’s status as a foreign owned company was required. Carnegie also recognised that the attraction, retention, and motivation of CRA’s employees would be aided if they were working for outcomes in the best interests of Australia and Australian shareholders, as opposed to a foreign entity. A process for CRA’s naturalisation was put in place.

Carnegie’s challenges in pursuing CRA’s expansive strategic goals became evident as the company moved closer to achieving naturalised, or majority Australian share ownership. London became increasingly concerned about aspects of the strategic direction of the company and its investments, including a planned involvement in the German steel industry and a combination with BHP. London’s view was that Carnegie was already acting as if he were an independent chairman of an independent Australian company.

‘Strategic instabilities’ became evident between Melbourne and London. With CRA’s naturalisation nearing, London reasserted control. It did this with the ultimate tool at its disposal – the removal of a chief executive, in July 1986.

John Ralph, a Consolidated Zinc and CRA veteran of over 30 years, was the logical successor. He provided continuity to many aspects of the organisational approach that he and Carnegie had developed but also repaired a fractured relationship between London and Melbourne. The redefinition of the role of the London office and of RTZ, and CRA’s move to majority Australian ownership, had, in some respects, fundamentally changed the basis of London’s relationship with CRA.

In the context of the globalisation of resource markets in the 1990s, the application of centrally controlled processes for strategic and financial decision-making, became a logical next step for the RTZ group, informed by its history of past instabilities in having major, partially controlled entities. The dual listed company (DLC) structure of 1995 provided a solution to how the portfolio could be structured and managed in an integrated manner between what were, in effect, two separate companies. With the DLC, the core basis of the corporate entity and objectives Carnegie had worked to achieve, and that had philosophically been the direction of Mawby – the Australianisation of CRA – was unwound.

Many saw Australian national interests being usurped, that Rio Tinto in London was capturing huge strategic value in key assets such as Hamersley without paying a takeover premium. With the DLC structure a new corporate entity was formed. In some senses, Rio Tinto in Australia had come full circle from 1954.

Robert Porter’s career was spent working in corporate roles, including in the resources sector. ‘Rio Tinto in Australia’ is his fifth book and is available through Connor Court Publishing:

How to improve morale within your business

It can be difficult improving the morale in your business. It can also be challenging to try to please everybody and for everyone to do their job correctly.

As a result, here are some suggestions on how to improve the work environment within your business and employees.

1. Study your work environment and the people who work there

As a business owner or manager, it is important to get a feel for every person who works there. Take some time to get to know your employees and ask questions about what your employees think of working there. Be aware and alert with the internal communications in your business.

2. Develop a plan

Draft a plan spelling out what you want your employees to accomplish. A business owner must know where the company is headed and to be able to put this in writing. Developing an effective business plan can save time and money for you and your employees.

3. Talking to your employees is important

Communicate with your employees on a regular basis. It is important that everyone is on the same wavelength. The last thing you want is to have some of your employees go do one thing and meanwhile the other half of the office is going in another direction. This leads to wasted time and effort. Talk with your team members daily to be sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to. This will save you a lot of time and money.

You and your business will be a lot more successful if you take the time to treat your employees well. There are so many businesses out there that lose money because the work productivity and morale is very bad. If you intend to make money in your business, then treat your employees well.

4. Treat people with respect

Treat your employees with the respect they deserve and don’t take advantage of them. Remind yourself that your employees have feelings and that it is your responsibility to show respect and kindness. There is no excuse for being rude to your employees.

Always show that you care. Many managers and business owners are so busy that they neglect the personal well-being of their workers. Showing that you care about the people who work for you can gain loyalty from your workers and increase productivity.

5. Don’t show favoritism.

When making decisions regarding your employees, it is important to be fair. Making decisions that shows favoritism to certain individuals will create jealousy and bad morale for the rest of your employees. Each employee should be treated fairly and granted the same opportunities as everyone else at your company.

Do not forget to praise staffers who do a good job. Don’t assume that any worker is beyond hearing some encouragement and don’t take anyone for granted. A simple thank you or a pat on the back is a great way to let workers feel appreciated and that their accomplishments are being noticed.

6. Share your success with others

It’s understandable that many business owners want to keep the profits all for themselves and for the company, however this can backfire on you. Being cheap with your employees can cause resentment. This resentment will encourage some workers to do just the bare minimum. If you want to increase productivity with your employees, share your monetary success with your workers with bonuses and incentive programs.

7. Show that you care

Many managers and business owners are so busy that they neglect the well-being of their workers. Let’s say that you find out that a certain employee has to go to physical therapy 3 days a week because of their back. When the time is right, ask this person how their back is feeling and if its getting any better. Showing that you care about the people who work for you can gain respect and loyalty from your workers. This will lead to more productivity.

8. Reduce any potential conflicts

Things will not always go smoothly. When a potential problem starts to emerge among your staff, try to find a solution immediately. Do not let potential conflicts drag on from week to week. Use your problem-solving skills to prevent arguments. Be open-minded and willing to see where your employees are coming from.

9. Be fair in your decision making process

When making decisions regarding your business and workers its important to be fair. Making decisions that will help a portion of your workers and not the rest of them can lead to jealousy and bad morale. Be fair with everyone and make sure you are not showing favoritism among certain people. This can lead to problems down the road.

10. Be trustworthy

Become known as an honest person at your company. You will increase your chances of people liking you if your employees respect you. Always tell the truth and do not rush to judgement when things do not go according to plan. Always take responsibility for your mistakes and don’t make excuses. You will be well liked if people know that they can rely on you for any kinds of assistance that your employees may experience.

11. Participate in your work’s social gatherings

Many companies offer various social gatherings to enhance teamwork. Make sure you go to these events so people can get to know you outside of the office. Talk to members of management and try to find common interests besides work. It is important that the people you work for know you both professionally and socially.

12. Stay on top of things

Do not put things off when you can do them today. As a business leader, it is important to have your team members do what they can during the day. Don’t have them assume that they can do it next week. You never know when something may come up and being efficient on a daily basis can prevent future problems down the road.

13. Talk to others for advice

If your still having trouble improving morale in your office, talk to others who can give you advice on what you can do. Do not be quick to make any decisions that could cause problems for you down the road.

Remember to take things one day at a time. Instead of worrying about your employees and your business try to focus on what you can do in the present. Each day can provide us with different opportunities and that includes learning how to deal with your business challenges. Have an open mind and be on the lookout in finding ways in improving business morale and increasing business productivity.

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear”. For more information, visit:

The importance of reputation

The importance of reputation in The Australian Business Executive

Reputation is key.

Whether you’re talking about reputation in terms of a brand, business or as an individual – it’s always important to make sure that you protect your reputation and strive for brand integrity. Your reputation is what will define your success and how others perceive you – so it’s essential to build a positive reputation and maintain it over time.

But why is your reputation so important?

Having a strong reputation or personal brand provides you the license to be able to achieve what you need to get done in life, whether it be professional or for that matter personal.

People listen to those with strong reputations.

The good news? Building a reputation isn’t difficult, but maintaining one takes effort and any wrong steps can shatter reputations overnight.

Outlined below are some fundamental foundations for building a strong reputation which I have learnt over time through experience, and I put into practice when advising leaders.

Focus on the issue not the person

I remember when I drafted a speech for a leader of a political party, I had a sentence which was effectively a personal attack on a member on the opposite side of politics. The politician that I drafted the speech for put a line through the attack and said, “I will never do that – I will never attack my opponents personally. I only deal with the issues”.

For me it was a very important lesson and one that has stayed with me over the decades. This was part of his personal brand and centres around dealing with the substance of the debate and not rely on personal attacks to try and build a reputation.

For the four years that I worked with this leader he never once went on a personal attack, and he built a reputation for someone who could get things done.

In the world of politics, it is rare for someone to rely on their ability to debate the issues.

By attacking the person and not the issue It undermines your ability to be perceived as a person of integrity and substance – two key elements of building a long lasting strong personal reputation and brand.

To attacks others is also very divisive.

Focusing on the issues at hand rather than pulling others down, also focus’s the minds of others on issues and not on personalities.

The same can be said for corporate reputation. Putting down competitors reflects more on your own company than the competitor. Focus on company strengths, not on competitor weaknesses. After working on corporate leadership teams for almost 20 years, one thing I learnt is that issues will arise, and corporate life is not always be smooth sailing.

If you attack your opponents, you can expect the tide to turn once you, or your company, runs into difficulties.

Walking the talk

You must be proactive, consistent and as the old saying goes “walk the talk” over time to succeed in building a lasting positive reputation. Aligning all aspects of what you do with what you say and the actions you take is key, particularly in a day and age where all your actions and words sit on the digital medium and can be recalled through internet searches.

You want to leave people with the impression that you are trustworthy, reliable and credible. People can sense very quickly when your actions and words don’t align, and you can be called out on it.

People not only focus on what you say, they also focus on how you say it. There is not only verbal communication, but also what people observe. One senior executive I worked with was responsible for safety in a large organisation. When at traffic lights, he would wait until the walk signal illuminated before he would cross the road. He lived responsibilities and others observed his commitment.

Another mentor during my career referred to it as “felt” leadership. He would say if you see a piece of paper on a factory floor, don’t walk past it. Pick it up and put it in the bin as people will observe your behaviour.

By “walking the talk” others will emulate your behaviour and tend to listen more intensely to what you have to say.

As a leader it will help people align with your agenda and move in the direction you want to take an organisation or career.

Talk about what you have achieved – not what you are going to do

I refer to this as the “quiet achiever” profile. The issue with constantly talking about what you are “going to do” is the build-up of expectations among stakeholders. The more expectations the greater the risk of some or all of them not being met in the minds of those stakeholders.

It goes to the question of credibility. The expression under promising and overachieving particularly comes to mind. CEO’s of listed companies understand the impact of the opposite, over promising and under delivering. It shows up in a depressed share price very quickly. By not meeting expectations, listed companies will typically have a lower share price when compared to competitors.

This is particularly the case when a company reports unexpected negative news or misses a target communicated to the marketplace.

Also, the opposite is the case. If a company continually meets market expectations, it will trade on a higher price earnings ratio than competitors over time.

Which brings me on to the next foundation.

The Intellectual Syndrome – stick to your lane

As a society we tend to elevate those that are experts or successful in one particular area to become experts on everything. This is a false economy.

People often get trapped by their own “fame” as it were and then are often to become commentators on areas where they have no expertise. I call this the “The Intellectual Syndrome.”

The potential to make uninformed comments on a topic will increase considerably when one strays from their knowledge base.

Science and debate are one thing, but when a person decides they have the ability, as against the right, to make informed comment on a controversial topic for which they have no knowledge, they open themselves to broad criticism. Sometimes that criticism can overshadow what they were debating about in the first place and the argument is lost and their reputation damaged.

When advising leaders, I always suggest they not respond to topics which are unrelated to their area of expertise. In this day and age, journalists and other commentators will seek opinions across a broad range of topics. It is trap that a lot of people fall into and in fact feel privileged for being asked about topics outside their filed of knowledge. The risk to reputation is far too great.

There are those that will provide a view on all topics and there are now many platforms which allows people to express a view. Consider that 90% of tweets on Twitter are written by 10% of users and you can understand the dimensions of “the Intellectual Syndrome”.

But for those that choose to comment on all topics, understand they leave themselves open to criticism and that their reputations over time may not be as robust as those that stick to their knowledge base.

This is particularly the case as a leader progresses closer to the top of their given field.

Say what you need – not what you want

Some are of the view that building reputation is about maximum exposure. Over my career I have seen people build reputations quickly which have died off just as quickly from over exposure.

Sticking to the principles outlined above allows for the building of a robust reputation that will stand the test of time.

It will take longer to build but it will pay dividends in the longer term when compared to heightened exposure in a shorter period of time.

Often engagement is confused with exposure the former being necessary at the relevant periods of time. Plan what you need to say at the right time to ensure what is being said is relevant, timely and will guide and add value the listening and observant audience.

Good communication is more about the listening than what is being said. If you say things too often, the audience will stop listening. Say what needs to be said, not what you want to say. It is a different lens.

Some conclusions

Ultimately what you say is who you are in the world. People don’t judge you based on who you think you are, they judge you based on what conversations there are in the world about you. To a large part, what governs those conversations is what you say, how you act and how you appear to others, not how you think you appear. That is not to say that you don’t have confidence in what you say, but tone it down with humility.

In summary, the foundations for building a good reputation include:

  1. Focus on the issue not the person
  2. Walk the talk
  3. Talk about what you have achieved – not what you are going to do
  4. Stick to your lane – The Intellectual Syndrome
  5. Say what you need – not what you want

By adopting these foundations, your ability to build reputation over time will be enhanced.

Mark Gell is a Founder and Partner of Reputation Edge. He has provided counsel to political leaders, CEOs and Boards for almost 40 years,

How experience makes us different: Why “Yes” is the right answer

How experience makes us different: Why “Yes” is the right answer in The Australian Business Exceutive

That I should support the “Yes” campaign in the forthcoming referendum is hardly surprising. “Yes” is my usual default position. No naysayer am I.

“Yes” tends to open up possibilities and afford opportunities. With “Yes” you are in with a chance.

I have seen the noxious bile which “No” campaigners have spewed forth onto social media sites, often in breach of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, relying on perceived disentitling behaviour or characteristics of Indigenous people, as a justification for denying them a voice to Parliament.

Like Victorian children, Indigenous people, at best, should be seen but not heard, according to many “No” campaigners.

The proposed Referendum is concerned with whether Indigenous Australians should have a special voice to Parliament about their own affairs, not about our affairs.

It is not to afford them decision-making status but only the right to be heard by our parliamentarians and, in turn, by Government and for that right – to be heard about their own affairs – no-one else’s, to be entrenched in the Commonwealth Constitution.

Prior to 1967, Indigenous Australians were invisible in the Commonwealth Constitution. They were not to be “seen or heard” in the Constitutional sense. Australia’s Aborigines were not counted among Australian citizens and they ranked along with flora and fauna. In 1967, they were subjected to the humiliation of having a Constitutional referendum conducted on whether they even had the right to be counted among their fellow Australians.

For about 70 years, until about 1950, their lives were governed by “protective” laws in every State and Territory except Tasmania (where a bounty on their heads had drastically reduced their numbers). Their nationwide population had shrunk from around 300,000 on the entire continent including Tasmania, in 1788, to about 60,000 by the time of the 1967 referendum. “Protective” legislation meant that under the guise of “protection”, the life choices and livelihoods of Indigenous Australians were the gift of the Protector in each State. This generally resulted in their being controlled in every aspect of their lives and literally ripped-off by White Australia. The rights to enjoyment of their land, to self-determination and to be paid for their work, were all denied to them.

In 1957, seven (7) Palm Islanders with the courage to protest about being paid less than 25% of the minimum wage, were taken in chains to Townsville to face trial. Even our trade unions turned their collective backs on Black Australia.

The Federal Government’s decision to hold a referendum in 1967 was no doubt prompted by the introduction of conscription in 1965, including to Vietnam. The Vietnam War was raging and we were going “All the way with LBJ”. Long abused Indigenous men could not otherwise have been conscripted because they were not Australian citizens. Once they became citizens in 1967, the Commonwealth could pass laws for them under the Constitution, including to induct them into the Army. Hundreds served.

Even then, 30% of Australians in some electorates in Western Australian and Queensland rejected the idea of Indigenous people becoming notionally equal before the laws of the Commonwealth, by voting “No” in the 1967 referendum.

How insulting, demoralizing and demeaning to be the subject of debate waged by your own countrymen as to whether you qualify even to be counted!

Such referenda provide open slather to racists and bigots. Many reviled gay Australians in the debate over whether to concede equal marriage rights (which was not even a Constitutional issue). That was a plebiscite rather than a referendum but with similar implications for those whose rights are placed on the line by Government. Back in 1829, in Britain, the House of Commons and then the House of Lords, debated whether to enact the Catholic Emancipation Act to grant the vote to Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom. It passed over stiff opposition.

Over a longer period, whether or not to elect Jews to become members of the British Parliament or to be eligible to vote was a controversy in the UK (the Duke of Wellington had been a consistent opponent of Jews being enfranchised) and the Jewish Disabilities Act was finally passed by the House of Commons in 1858. Read UK Hansard from those times and you will see the vitriolic hatred against Catholics and Jews by members of the UK Parliament, which those debates unleashed. To have the recognition of minority rights at the mercy of the majority is inherently unjust and undemocratic.

American political satirist, E.B. White observed that, “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booth ….”.1 However, democracy does not extend to the majority oppressing minorities and refusing to listen to them, while advancing specious reasons for continuing to treat them as detritus, in arguing to deny them a Constitutional right of audience before Parliament.

Many intending “No” voters rely on the premise that “We are all equal, and no-one should be treated any differently, including Indigenous Australians”. Well said but this is a statement that could only be made by someone who is clueless about Australian history:

Starting in 1794, mass killings of Indigenous Australians on the frontiers of white settlement were first carried out by British soldiers, then by police and settlers – often acting together – and later by native police, working under the command of white officers in militia-style forces, supported by Colonial Governments. These slaughters occurred, without formal repercussions until as late as 1926, and took place in all States and Territories of Australia.

The University of Newcastle’s Centre for 21st Century Humanities, adopting stringent research methods, compiled a colonial massacre map:

*An average of 14 Indigenous Australians were killed in each massacre.

*Government forces were actively engaged in frontier massacres until at least the late 1920’s. At least 51 of the massacres were in reprisal for the killing or theft of livestock or property.

*Only once were colonial perpetrators found guilty and punished – in the aftermath of the Myall Creek killings, in 1838; 28 Aboriginal men, women and children had been bound and murdered and their corpses immolated by the white settlers.

*In New South Wales and Tasmania, between 1793 and 1833, most of the 56 recorded attacks on Aborigines were carried out on foot by detachments of soldiers from British regiments – an average of 15 people were killed in each attack.

*Between 1859 and 1915, an average of 34 people were killed in each attack.

*There have been at least 9 known cases of deliberate poisoning of flour given to Aboriginal people.

Evidence taken at the 1927 Royal Commission into the Forrest River Massacre in Western Australia referred to a “conspiracy of silence” among white settlers in the entire Kimberley district, in its thwarted attempts to find out what really happened. The testimony of one (1) survivor was referred to in the Royal Commission Report: “Many kartiya (white fellas) were too greedy for our land and didn’t see us as fully human”.2

Between 1910 and 1970 around 100,000 half-caste Aboriginal children were systematically seized from their birth families, many never to be returned. They became “The Stolen Generation”. The rationale: Aborigines were a dying race and half-caste children should be given the benefit of being able to grow up in white families.3

I have heard Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus disparage Indigenous culture as though the Aborigines’ intense connection to ancient sites and their spiritual symbiosis with their land and natural phenomena, somehow renders them inferior to adherents of monotheistic religions who, in point of fact, tend to be preoccupied with dietary and sexual prohibitions and restrictions, as well as with the sanctity of holy sites, be they in Jerusalem, Medina or Mecca.

In the twenty-two (22) years from the end of World War II, from 1945 to 1967, when the referendum on Aboriginal citizenship was held, Australia had promoted mass migration here by Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs and we even subsidised UK migrants, by offering them passage to Australia and guaranteed residence and citizenship if they just paid GBP£10.

In virtually no time, British migrants and Southern European, newly naturalised “New Australians”, were voting about whether Indigenous Australians should even be counted as Australians, in a Constitutional Referendum. These economic refugees from Europe were already entrenched as Australian citizens, after just a few years on our shores. Add to them the Jewish refugees, persecuted in Europe, who were now also embedded in Australia and able to vote on the future of Australia’s first people, whose 40,000 year heritage had been trashed over the immediately preceding 200 years (the Jews’ 5,000 year civilization had been trashed over the preceding 2,000 years).

Some of these immigrant groups, who are keenly focused on their own “intergenerational trauma”, are too self-centred to recognise the intergenerational trauma which successive generations of white interlopers have inflicted on their Indigenous hosts.

I see “No” campaigners on the internet, ridiculing “Welcome to Country” ceremonies, particularly where we are asked to pay our respects to “Aboriginal Elders, past, present and future”.

I, too, agree that the “Welcome to Country” in its current form should be scrapped. It is typically an anodyne, even saccharine statement of defeat. It should be reframed defiantly in Sydney in the following terms and mutatis mutandis, in other regions:

“You are presently on Gadigal land, which successive Australian governments have purported to appropriate without paying just compensation or affording recognition and respect to the Indigenous Australians to whom it belongs. It is time that you confronted your own crimes against us and worked with us towards genuine healing and reconciliation, which means that you have an obligation to familiarize yourselves with, and learn the truth of our history, of living, suffering – and dying – with White Australia. We are grateful for the opportunities which modern Australia offers and want to be able fully to enjoy them with you”.

If it were up to me I would not hold this “Voice” Referendum. The Australian Government can make special laws for Aboriginal Australians which are “beneficial” and that extends to setting up a consultative body, accessible to the Australian Parliament.

There is no need for this referendum any more than there was a need to hold a plebiscite on gay marriage. Sadly, the “Voice” referendum will fail and Australia will be damaged in the councils of nations. The cause of Indigenous Australians will be set back once again.

Nevertheless, if there is to be a vote there is only one way to vote and that is “Yes”. Much more fortunate were the other Indigenous peoples of Oceania who remained majorities in their territories which were colonized. Ultimately, they became independent and sovereign. Only New Zealand, Canada and Australia are among the top ten (10) countries with the highest youth suicide rates (teenagers between 15 and 19 years). Their Indigenous populations share in common that they were overrun, overwhelmed, disrupted and displaced by white settlement. Among Indigenous Australians, teenage suicide rates are among the highest in the world. No sovereign states in our region, ruled by their Indigenous majorities, figure in the top ten countries with the highest youth suicide rates.

Rightists in Australia are exploiting the Voice referendum as an opportunity to vilify Indigenous Australians and cut back on their rights and on Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. They know that even with an Indigenous voice, reactionary governments will not pay heed to what is being said by Australia’s Indigenous people.

They have not listened before and will not start listening, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Stewart A Levitt is Senior Partner with Levitt Robinson Solicitors, specialising in corporate law, banking & finance, and class action law,

Foot notes:

1. White, E.B.,‘The New Yorker, The 40’s: The Story of a decade’.‘The New Yorker, July 3, 1943’.
2. Allam, L. and Evershed, N., “The Killing Times: The massacres of Aboriginal people Australia must confront”, The Guardian, 3rd March, 2019.
3. Report of the National Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Children from their Families, April, 1987, AHRC