A winning culture

A lot of elite sportspeople are paid very well for what they do, dependent on the depth of the pockets of the club and governing body of the chosen sport. The training and restrictions on elements of their daily lives due to commercial considerations do, to an extent, justify the salaries and undoubtedly there is a lot of pain, sacrifice and lost opportunity involved in getting to the elite level. It’s usually not a walk in the park.

The recent ball tampering controversy involving the Australian Men’s Cricket team in South Africa really shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Those responsible have demonstrated yet again the apparently common belief across sport, business and politics that all that is important is the win; doesn’t matter how you get there.

The belief that winning rather than the best display of athleticism in sport is not limited to the Australian cricketers. In 2015, the AFL Anti-doping Tribunal issued a lifetime ban to Stephen Dank, a ‘Sports Scientist’ who had worked with three AFL clubs, after finding
Dank guilty of 10 breaches of the anti-doping code from 34 charges, including trafficking, attempting to traffic and complicity in matters related to a range of prohibited substances.
Dank maintained his innocence in the supplements scandal after having 24 serious charges dismissed. He has signalled he will appeal the guilty findings.

At times, the individuals are not the problem. National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL) Clubs operate under a mandatory ‘salary cap’ process designed initially to even out the ability of individual clubs with deep pockets to buy all the best players, as do a number of other sports domestically and internationally. It’s old news that sporting clubs attempt at times to rort the respective salary caps. This report from the FourFourTwo website reports of seven major salary cap breaches around the world.

The attitude isn’t just limited to the sporting fields. A number of politicians including Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie have been campaigning against the influence of poker machines in hotels and clubs for a long time. One recent claim reported on Fairfax media websites detailed
A whistleblower who worked at a Woolworths-owned pub has described how staff meetings were held to discuss how to encourage a grieving woman nicknamed “Queen Bee” by management to put her inheritance into poker machines after the loss of her parents.

The woman had previously worked in a professional job but began to gamble heavily while on workers compensation after the death of her parents, the staff members said.

The allegation is one of several made by two staff members who worked at different pubs owned by Woolworths pub subsidiary, ALH.

“We basically had a staff meeting straight out saying … ‘When she comes in, day or night or whatever, just treat her like Queen Bee.’ Like she will get this, that, free drinks, free food. They kept her there. If the music was not to her liking, in the gaming room, bang bang bang. We would go there and change the music back to hers,” one of the woman told a staff member of the anti-pokies campaigner and MP Andrew Wilkie in video-recorded interviews.
While a company does have the right to present customers with incentives (such as loyalty cards, frequent flyer memberships and the like), the morality of the seemingly corporately sponsored actions described above are questionable. For the record,
ALH, or Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, owns 400 pubs around the country and is 75 per cent owned by Woolworths. Its operations account for about 10 per cent of the grocery giant’s overall profits.
While Wesfarmers (through their Coles subsidiary) owns 89 hotels across four states.

It seems that ‘the win’ in the corporate world is profit and again in the eyes of some, the processes used to ‘get the win’ aren’t relevant. The ABC News website has a ‘Fraud and Corporate Crime’ section. Unfortunately it only takes the ABC five weeks or so to file 25 news stories relating to Fraud and Corruption.

Politically, the same win at all costs strategy was displayed by former PM Abbott when Opposition Leader during the Rudd and Gillard years. His mantra was absolute negativity. Remember the $100 lamb roast, the complete ‘wipeout’ of Whyalla and every word being fawned upon by the conservatives that infect the media with their own warped view of the world? We now know that as Prime Minister, Abbott was so popular that his own side of politics sacked him after 30 poor opinion polls. On the way to his sacking he oversaw the hugely unpopular 2014 federal budget that incorporated cuts to the ABC and SBS, healthcare and welfare payments including the draconian requirement that those who commit the crime of being under 30 and lose their job would be ineligible for any government benefit for six months.

Current Prime Minister Turnbull led the ‘palace coup’ against Abbott citing his lack of economic credibility, political style and 30 bad opinion polls in a row. Two years later (and Newspoll number 30 is scheduled for release today), Turnbull is backtracking from the ‘30 polls’ comment faster than a kid can eat an Easter Egg. Realistically, the most probable challenger to Turnbull at this stage is Opposition Leader Shorten so the 30th poor poll is unlikely to be the last. However, the winner take all mentality is still there.

While there are an estimated 62,000 visa overstayers in Australia (most of whom entered the country using an Airbus or Boeing product), the Border Force arm of the ridiculously named Home Affairs Ministry overseen by Peter Dutton took a refugee family from their home and paid employment in a small Central Queensland town called Biloela because their visa had expired shortly prior to the dawn raid. It was only a few weeks ago on The Political Sword that we discussed Dutton’s lack of care for the estimated 400 Rohingya per week being murdered in Myanmar while ‘exploring options’ to assist white South African farmers because potentially there is one murder a week. While one murder is one too many, Dutton’s white farmers are apparently ‘victimised’ less than black South African youth in townships. You can only suggest there is a disconnect here that can only be called racism.

Resources Minister Matt Cananvan’s recent outburst at the National Press Club when asked about transitioning away from a coal future is another case in point
It was “objectionable” he said, to talk about people losing their livelihoods. He said concepts like “just transitions” were a con. “I don’t like the term transition, let’s be frank. If you want to shut down the coal industry and cost people jobs, say it. Have the guts to say it.”

Canavan advised the questioner [Katharine Murphy who wrote this for The Guardian] to take a trip to northern Tasmania to see what a transition really looked like. “Real poverty,” he noted. “House prices halve, people get locked in to an environment they can’t get out of and their lives are destroyed.
His advice, while touching, is completely different to the same Coalition Government’s care and concerns when, as Murphy recalls, the Abbott Government (of which Canavan was a part)
shuttered the Australian car industry with barely a backward glance.

I really don’t remember much outward concern for falling house prices or destroyed lives or “utter heartbreak” in Adelaide. Perhaps some displaced workers are more equal than others.
LNP Senator Canavan, like a considerable volume of coal exports, is from Queensland.

Former Abbott/Turnbull Government Minister Bruce Billson recently made the news when it was revealed that he was receiving a $75,000 per annum private income from the Franchise Council of Australia while he was still the Small Business Minister. While Billson is certainly not the only MP to breach the rules or perception of ethical behaviour involved with taking a seat in Australia’s Federal Parliament, there is no Federal anti-corruption commission where matters such as Billson’s can be investigated independently. So when the ALP (finally) campaigns for a national integrity commission, Turnbull is nowhere to be seen or heard.

Neither is Turnbull to be heard when it is demonstrated that the renewable energy push by the former ALP South Australian Government is paying dividends, when Australia still imprisons refugees offshore in subhuman conditions even when they have a demonstrated legal right to be in Australia, when Dutton’s black-shirted ‘enforcers’ pull a refugee family from their home while apparently doing nothing about the estimated 62,000 visa overstayers who flew into the country, when Dutton favours ‘assistance’ to white farmers over Rohingya who apparently are suffering far more persecution, or when Canavan who seems to suggest that we as a nation can continue to support the environmental ill-effects of coal mining while giving lip service to the Paris Climate Accord.

Yet, in a classic example of ‘look over there’ we do see Turnbull call for an end to sledging in cricket. Turnbull is quoted by the ABC as suggesting
"It has gotten right out of control. It should have no place.

"The game of cricket … should be one that once again is held up as a role model.”
He’s right – sledging in cricket has got out of control and various reports have suggested that the Australian Cricket Team’s culture is the problem. Turnbull went on to say
"They now have to make sure that this great national game, this great international game that is synonymous with fair play, is once again a game that is played by champions that everybody can look up to."
And that’s the problem. Turnbull as the leader of this country has allowed his team to clearly deny ‘fair play’ to the environment, ill-treat those who seek out assistance from a country that used to support a fair go to everyone or demonstrate the discipline to bring his rogue ministers to account. He also allows business interests to pursue legal but morally or ethically questionable practices such as the lending practices in the finance industry, claim tax cuts are necessary (while not paying the current nominal tax rate) or the incentives offered to the vulnerable by the gambling industry.

Good (or bad) behaviour is governed by what those in charge will accept. Cricket Australia (eventually) realised they had a problem, dispatched their CEO to South Africa and imposed penalties considerably higher than required by the international governing body on those deemed to be at fault. However, Turnbull is in charge of the country and has demonstrated that pandering to sectional interests and discrimination are acceptable behaviours in his government and by implication, business.

The ABC quotes Turnbull as saying
"I mean, this has been a shocking affront to Australia.

"Where do we want to get to? We want to get to the point where we can all say once again, not rhetorically but heartfelt and with sincerity, that cricket is a fair game, cricket is a game that is synonymous with a fair go and fair play."
When will he ensure his government and Australian business live up to the same standards?

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