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Harry Heidelberg on corporatism, outsourcing, etc. - In the Shadow of Leaves
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Harry Heidelberg on corporatism, outsourcing, etc.
Samples of work from a writer who is a side-bar from Margot Kingston's Webdiary section [recommended] of the www.smh.com.au site of the Sydney Morning Herald (from the Fairfax stable). [Update: This webdiary site is now an archive. The current site is at webdiary.com.au, but it doesn't have the older SMH material.]


In Europe, don't mention the Yanks

By Harry Heidelberg January 27 2003

The question remains how "to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life in this world"?


[I particularly like the final paragraph (not shown here).]

HIH: Time to stop the rot for good

by Harry Heidelberg January 20 2003

I wonder how long we will remember this time. Three years or four? As the eighties turned into the nineties there were many collapses. Bond was jailed, Skase was on the run, two State banks had collapsed and Victoria was generally a basket case. Let's face it, Canberra had to bail out Victoria.

I'm old enough to have corporate memories of that era seared into my psyche. As a youngster of 20, I went to a huge corporate party on October 17, 1987, the so-called Black Tuesday when stock markets collapsed. The next day I was still around Australia Square as crowds gathered in Bond Street to watch the Australian market collapse on the then Sydney Stock Exchange ...

Later some guy landed in Australia Square after having jumped from somewhere above level 40. Years later I used to show people where it happened. It took them a long time to properly get the blood out of the paving ...

In the early 1990s I was in the USA and seconded to the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC). The RTC had a mission of bailing out troubled savings and loans institutions. It was a debacle that cost the US government billions ...
The customers got their money back because the US government made sure of it. The taxpayers were screwed. Uncle Sam paid for every penny while the criminals got away with so much ...

When I got back to Australia, the large accounting firms had enormous law suits against them. The figures were staggering ...
I wasn't involved in the original audit, but was asked to try and piece it all together. It was a farce. There was nothing to piece together. There were too many records missing ...

[In another case] They had prepared workpapers documenting their concern about the client's ability to continue as a going concern. When an audit report is signed it is implicit that the company will continue to be a going concern for a year. You can't have workpapers on file that don't support that view. The workpapers were later changed to support the clean audit opinion. Criminal, in my view ...

For me the fact that we went through all of this in the late 80s and early 90s is enough. Shouldn't this sort of level of scandal be only something you see once in a generation, or once in a career? I've now seen it twice, and I don't want to see it a third time ...

The people responsible were not really dealt with the first time around and they are not being dealt with this time. When I say dealt with, I mean imprisoned. I do not mean send the patsy to prison, send the real ones there. I am not one to go for elaborate conspiracy theories but there is definitely something rotten at the big end of town that needs to be rooted out once and for all.

Twice is enough in one career. I'm now afraid for the entire system and I don't know what can replace it ...
We need more people who will tell and we need people who will listen, because unless we have both the whole thing will happen again, probably around 2010 ...

The theme of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week is "Building Trust". The foundations of the entire system are at stake and unless trust can be built (the real and sustaining way), I fear for the future. The lack of trust must be not only recognised, but addressed...

Outsource, then backsource

by Harry Heidelberg
[Very good exposition of something you may have noticed me ranting about frequently]
Sometimes you have to wonder about the intentions of government policymakers.

The role of the policymakers should be to assure our long term interests. The broad interests, not the narrow ones. The other side of it is ideology. Policy driven by ideology is some of the most dangerous of all. We've seen that all over the world.

In Britain, the privatised rail system is dangerous, unreliable and outrageously expensive. No one understands why all that had to happen. In continental Europe many countries have railway systems with near perfect safety records, trains that run so exactly to time that you could set your watch by them and fares that are well priced in relation to local living costs. These systems are in government hands where the mission is to provide safe, reliable and fast transport for the community as a whole. Everyone understands that and loves it. It is even a source of pride for the community. A symbol of a country that works.

This is where I lose interest in ideology. I do support a lot of the neoliberal agenda - but I want safe trains that I trust. I want a working community, not a shambolic mess ...
[large block left out]
I don't particularly care if Coles Myer is a basket case. Other companies will take over the things they do so poorly. Business is allowed to experiment. If they get it wrong, they'll lose profits.

In government it is different. I don't think experimentation there is so wise!! When government mismanagement creates a basket case scenario, then it affects us all. Those responsible should be held accountable.

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