“Her husband is not in power. There is no conflict of interest.” So declared The Age in an editorial yesterday when discussing Therese Rein’s decision to sell her business.
Only a newspaper that has conflicts king Ron Walker as company chairman could possibly come up with such an absurd claim.
Kevin Rudd was massively conflicted from the moment he became Labor leader because his wife’s company operates in a job placement market that was largely created by the Federal Government.
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Labor’s decisions to retain that outsourced market, rather than bring it back in-house, was controversial. The Rudds will literally make millions from that Labor policy decision because profits approaching $10 million a year will presumably be maintained under a Rudd Government, which the polls suggest is now highly likely.
It would be very interesting to know who was involved in that Labor policy decision. The party wants to wind back the policy clock on industrial relations, but not with job placement.
Labor was placed in a very difficult position by Therese Rein’s business success. A policy to scrap out-sourcing and recreate the old CES would have required criticism of the privatised system – and, as the biggest for-profit provider, such criticism would have focused on Ingeus, run by the wife of the bloke who would have had to sell the policy change.
The announced intention to sell has taken the sting out of the conflicts debate, but the structuring of the deal will be vital.
Service industry deals often involve key executives who must remain for a certain period to share in future profits or “earn-outs”. Therese Rein had been the key person in the development of Ingeus.
When Crikey was sold 26 months ago, I had to stay for 18 months, and the initial contract had a provision where it could be sold back to me if the new owners weren’t enjoying the ride. Therese Rein shouldn’t be able to entertain such structures. The Australian arm should be sold cleanly and completely before the election.
And where do you draw the line on the Australian and international operations? Piers Akerman had a good point in highlighting the Ingeus contract to recruit German miners to Queensland on 457 visas.
The climate change policy debate is about to reach boiling point, so it is totally inappropriate for any coal mining company to be directly putting money into the Rudd family business as Labor decides how hard to slug the industry for its huge carbon emissions.