Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Janet Albrechtsen, the need to give CEOs squillions, monkeys and peanut factories

We've been extremely busy here trying to think up appropriate warning subtitles for historically incorrect movies to please our buddy Gerard Henderson:

Warning: the real Erin Brockovich doesn't look like this.
Warning: Sean Penn is not a homosexual.
Warning: Harrison Ford is not a real archeologist. Do not treat sensitive digs as shown in this movie. Be aware the final show in the series is a crime against humanity.
Warning: Citizen Kane is not William Randolph Hearst, and the cinematic treatment of the opera singer is in no way a satirical reference to his treatment of girlfriend Marian Davies.
Warning: Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible and Alexander Nevsky purport to be history but are naked Stalinist propaganda, which didn't stop Stalin from hating Ivan Part II so much he destroyed Part III. Hey ho.
Warning: any suggestion of a connection between the gunners in the World War II bomber epic Twelve O'Clock High and the fantasy battle scenes in Star Wars is a defamatory slur on George Lucas.
Warning: any suggestion that Bert Newton is actually alive in his current 20 to 1 shows, as opposed to an animatronic CGI figure, is a scurrilous rumor.
Warning: the children in Rabbit Proof Fence only went for a quick walk to the toilet, got lost and stayed away from home for a day because they were frightened they might be labelled the stolen generation. Gerard has proof of this!
Warning: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is scientifically feasible - anything you can imagine can come true. 
Warning: the sheep love displayed by Gene Wilder in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex is common, widespread, and rife in New Zealand.

Oh dear lord. Wikipedia lists hundreds of movies based on actual events or real people, all of them wildly, totally inaccurate. Can we just stop now Gerard and say if you want history read a history book, and if you want filthy innuendo, defamatory omissions, lies and half baked half truths, go to a movie  and eat the hot buttered popcorn of  dismal distortions and treacherous trumpery?

Moving along, Janet Albrechtsen is in fine form in Right's crazy class war on CEOs, where she shows just how compassionate a conservative should be.

Sure a few people are appalled at the behavior of the mindless money grubbing at high executive level that has led to the severe economic downturn these past few months. Correction - at the greedy inept behavior of the lumpenproletariat in taking out loans they had no way of repaying, the stupid sub-prime fools, thereby deceiving fair minded banks and kind hearted credit providers and creating the current morass.

But we have to remember, in a compassionate way, that greed is good. It seems silly Malcolm Turnbull has proposed giving shareholders a say on executive remuneration, and Tony Abbott endorsed the suggestion in his usual mindless cheerleader way.

This kind of thinking is just cheap, populist vote winning. There can't be any sensible suggestion that executive pay is out of control - they deserve a regular hundred per cent increase, or more, because it's just so exhausting and time consuming making sure the workers below only get a two per cent increase.

Or better still, no pay at all for Oz workers, by organising a shift to China. What a sensible solution, especially for a brand which has traded shamelessly in the past on it being as Australian as apple pie (or vegemite or aeroplane jelly or hard yakka or lamingtons if you somehow think apple pie has something to do with America).

Poor old Pacific Brand had no idea of the impending financial collapse and when they did they immediately handed back all their pay rises and decided to see how they could keep Australians in jobs. Correction: they pocketed the money and kept on heading to China.

And we all know how hard done by Sol Trujillo has been at Telstra, and how the company is in much better shape since he did all his hard work, and now heads into the sunset squillions richer. What a fine example of a stern board in action, controlling remuneration and doing the best for the company and its shareholders. (Own shares like we do? Nah, nah. Suckers, losers).

Albrechtsen goes on at length to explain how representative democracy works at a board level, and bizarrely seems to think that greater shareholder activism in some areas - voting on share issues and major mergers and acquisitions - is okay, because "those matters go directly to the fundamental nature and structure of their investment."

But somehow executive pay fails this test, never mind that executives might be paid a fortune in salaries and bonuses while reducing the value of a shareholder's investment to zero in a bankrupt company. Suddenly this kind of reward/activity is strictly and quintessentially an operational matter. 

And it's worked so well these last few months.

It's a funny old world. Albrechtsen carries on about such significant shareholder power leading to a stampede of talent out of public companies to private entities, or out of Australia altogether. Why not go to the Middle East? Indeedy, why not rush off to Dubai right now? (Just make sure you know how to abandon your car at the airport if times prove too tough).

Yes, in these desperate times, where else to turn than New Zealand as a prime example of the importance of deregulation, since talent always flows from the area of highest regulation to the least. (Is that a polite way of saying that gangsters and drug dealers and criminals always go the place with the least effective police enforcement because they think that helps them get away with their dirty deeds?)

So that explains why millions of entrepreneurs are flocking to New Zealand as we speak - it's anticipated the population will double from four to eight million in a couple of years, just because of this ironclad law and because Janet says it's so.

Finally we have a capper - Janet can see no reason to strangle incentive, never no mind if incentive has actually led the entire global financial system to the point of collapse. What's the problem? Meh.

Regrettably the Coalition - which should have this buried in its DNA - seems to be pandering to the opposite instinct. They are now beset with the jealousy and class war gene. We accept easily the vast amounts paid to golfers, tennis players, rock stars and actors. No one ever whines about the pay discrepancy between a key grip and lead actor.

Ah, now it all becomes clear. Janet Albrechtsen has never been on a film set and uses examples which show she doesn't have a clue. There's always one person who whines about the pay discrepancy between a key grip and a lead actor. And that's the key grip. They make life hell for the producers - they work out ways to get more overtime, to charge for gear, to whine and mope. There's only one person that whines more - and that's the gaffer, especially when it comes to burn time. 

It's left to the poor old  production manager to put up with the shit, along with the shit thrown about by the highly paid star, who has the personality of a deluded egotistical teenager, and the attention seeking skills of a two year old. ( No I didn't want the Perrier water, I wanted the Perrier-Jouet champagne, and I'm not going out on set until I get it).

Why do we constantly invoke such meaningless comparisons in the corporate sphere? We should be encouraging our best and brightest to run our most productive enterprises. While it may presently be fashionable to complain about the undoubted mistakes in executive compensation, let's not substitute a system that drives talent out of our key businesses.

That's right, there's compassionate conservatism at work, always worried about the fate of the rich. Sure there have been a few mistakes, but to complain is merely fashionable. Sure the herds of the best and the brightest have driven us towards a huge cliff, and helpfully shown us all how we can jump off it. But to worry about that is merely fashionable.

What should we do about the current failures? Nothing you dolts. Do you want to drive all these highly skilled people out of the game? Who'd fuck over the businesses and wreck the economies then?

But if all our best and brightest went overseas, replacing the unemployed best and brightest over there, wouldn't the unemployed best and brightest over there come over here, or at least come to New Zealand, and after deciding sheep love was an issue for them, come to the sparkling blue of Sydney Harbor, where a man can float a boat and make a fortune from pie in the sky? 

Or maybe we should ship all the CEOs off to China, so they closely supervise the businesses they've shipped there. None of that getting the Chinese peasants to do the work while they suck up lunches down at Finger Wharf in good ol' Woolloomooloo (don't you just love that name, so indigenous).

Second thoughts: who actually wants the best and the brightest who produced the current fuck up?

There you go again, cheap NZ jokes, stupid ideas, bile full of class hatred and jealousy. You're sounding like a Liberal in opposition Dorothy!

I guess Janet's right, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. If you buy the peanut factory, and let management rort all the peanuts, you get a bankrupt factory and plenty of rich monkeys. What a virtuous circle compassionate conservatism produces. (And fuck you if you want any peanuts).

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