Finance Minister Nick Minchin must be feeling a little sheepish at the
moment.

After telling a meeting of the HR Nicholls Society earlier this
month that Australia needed even more radical IR changes – and also
admitting that the public hated the ones the government has already
passed – Minchin has gone
to ground, while the HR Nicholls society has gone into bat on his
behalf saying that the meeting was essentially
off the record and he didn’t know he would be quoted.

In today’s Financial Review (not online), Laura Tingle
highlights Minchin’s faux pas, saying his comments have given Beazley a
soft target and given Labor some much needed traction on the
electorally sensitive issue of IR: “It is in this context that you really have to just see how
spectacularly indiscreet the Finance Minister was in Sydney two weeks
ago when he addressed the industrial hardliners as ‘soul mates’,
clearly believing he was in a closed meeting. It wasn’t a closed
meeting.”

Damned right it wasn’t a closed meeting. David Vincent, the editor of IR newsletter Workplace Express who recorded Minchin’s comments and broke the
story, told Crikey that it was just like any other Nicholls Society
meeting, where he’d always been free to just walk up, put his
audio recorder on the table and let the quotes flow.

“They didn’t set down any ground rules, they claim I have an
understanding about how to operate at their conferences. No-one
approached me about it at all. I attended as a reporter (they all know
me after attending every conference since 2001) and put my iPod
recorder on the table in front of me in full view.”

The HR Nicholls Society is now backtracking, saying Vincent should have
checked with the speaker first before reporting anything.

Peter Fray

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