May 24, 2007 | Graham

Reining Rudd in

Therese Rein’s businesses represent real ethical challenges to Kevin Rudd, but it is unlikely that the government will pursue them, for fear of incurring the wrath of Australian women.
Today’s Australian carries the story that Rein underpaid some workers. Rudd says that it was an honest mistake. That’s hard to swallow, and one should give him the same benefit of the doubt that he would undoubtedly have given Howard in the same situation.
The response from many is that a married woman ought to be able to carry on her own business irrespective of who her husband is. That’s true, as far as it goes. It shouldn’t automatically be the case that a husband’s occupation ought to have a bearing on a wife’s – it’s just as reasonable that her’s ought to have a bearing on his. But some occupations are just not compatible with others, and it is up to the couples to manage them, and in cases where they are not compatible, one has to give way.
This is particularly so if, rather than the occupations being exclusive domains where each of the partners operates without reference to the other, they collaborate and discuss issues. Even more so when one partner, in this case Rudd, appears to operate as the public spokesman for the other.
A good, if unlikely, demonstration of the principle I am talking about is that it would not be possible for a man or a woman to be a minister of religion if their partner owned an escort agency, at least not in any mainstream church that I can think of. The couple would have to chose between vice and the vicarage.
Rudd’s problem doesn’t arise because his wife is in business, although it doesn’t help when she allows things like this to happen. His problem arises because her major client is the Australian Government, and he is obviously intimately bound-up in her company as well as aspiring to be Prime Minister. You can’t have a husband and wife on opposite sides of a transaction when there is a fiduciary duty involved, as there is with public money.
If the Rudd’s are serious about running the country, Ingeus, her company, has to go.
Note: I see in this morning’s Australian that Rudd foreshadows that the couple may have to review ownership of the business. Full marks for that, but it’s taken a while. The problem should have been obvious some years ago. I first pointed it out in this post describing it as the “real elephant in the room” of conflict of interest.

Posted by Graham at 10:24 pm | Comments (9) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. I wonder had the situation been reversed, and Therese Rein been the aspiring political leader and Kevin Rudd the business man involved with Australian Government contracts, if this situation would have been allowed to go on this long. Just a thought.

    Comment by Susan — May 25, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  2. I consider Ms Therese Rein to be fair game. The ALP had no compunctions about savaging Jeff Kennett and Felicity Kennett over KNF Advertising.
    Furthermore, given that Ingeus and YES are agents hired to place people in jobs, I would like to know the company’s position on AWAs. Do they recommend them to their clients? Does the company steer their clients into collective agreements?
    Geoff Kelley

    Comment by Geoffrey Kelley — May 25, 2007 @ 10:04 am

  3. The wrath of Australian women, eh.
    One online poll shows that, to date, most respondents do not think that Rudd’s wife (that should should annoy them) should give up her business for the sake of his “job”. A gender check of the respondents would be interesting.
    The sort of woman who makes all the noise about ‘equality’ is not the slightest bit interested in equality. She wants to dominate.
    More and more women are taking jobs from men, just because they are women. And, sorry girls, but the standards and quality of service in those jobs is plummeting.

    Comment by Leigh — May 25, 2007 @ 10:51 am

    This man is wants to be our next prime minister yet his wife has a company that is the third largest contractor with the Australian federal government job net work… This has got to be insider trading at its best. Rudd would obviously have vital government information and knowledge that he would be using to assist his wife’s company. (Unfair trading) How does Rudd expect any one to trust him? There is talk of his wife selling her company because there could be a conflict of interest. Well there is already a conflict of interest and the matter should be investigated .This is an indication of what is to come if Rudd becomes the Australian prime Minster, Rudd can not be trusted to run the country.

    Comment by harry — May 25, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

  5. I don’t think you can call it insider trading, and certainly as an ordinary opposition frontbencher, while Rudd had a conflict of interest, I don’t think it was such that he needed to resolve it by selling the business.
    However, the standards that are applied to Prime Ministerial aspirants are much higher than just being a member of the frontbench. It’s evidence of naivety, or a lack of the necessary ruthlessness and single-mindedness, that Rudd has put himself into the leadership of the ALP, while leaving this conflict unaddressed.
    I wonder if Malcolm Turnbull has any interests in the business managed by his wife which produce similar conflicts?

    Comment by Graham Young — May 25, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

  6. For Chrissakes you lot!
    How is it that people so persistently insist on reducing all and every issue that ever turns up in politics back to gender issue.
    It’s neo lib/right libertarian sidetracking.
    No boss has the (moral) right to exploit workers. So therefore how could then Rein’s “rights” extend to hassling workers, any more than a male boss ?
    Rein has apparently publically suggested that she shares Rudd’s social and political ideals, presumably including IR. Eyebrows must be more archly raised if there is a failure in the application at the personal level, than with an employer who has openly opposed the ALP IR moves.
    Add to this the certainty that as Rudd’s wife, Rein is going to come under the sort of scrutiny that the expediency-driven Liberals would studiously AVOID putting ANY other employer under. The whole thing begins to look real sloppy, as to Rudd’s planning and execution of his ascension to the ALP Leadership, perhaps most of all in his own character judgement as to his own wife.
    This is particularly if she had not told him she would not take adequate steps to adjust possibly oppressive labour hire practices. This in the certain knowledge leading of his probable undermining as a candidate for future PM. The shabby, spiteful moral imperatives of Howardist IR involving greed and malice indicate that only the most miserable of employers would surely support such despicable legislation. It seems inexplicable that she would risk Kevin Rudd’s reputation, OR HER OWN(!!), embarking on the embrace of the Howard IR!
    Let’s not forget she is already a wealthy woman. So to proceed with Howardist IR would only suggest small-minded greed and meanness. We presume a future first lady, particularly one as purportedly intelligent and socially motivated as Ms. Rein supposedly would such regard for her reputation alone, as to avoid that which she knows would besmirch it. She would be aware that millions have placed their faith in her husband. He has volunteered service to his nation and is thus obligated.
    His proclamations of himself AND HER, WITHOUT DENIAL FROM HER, as Christians and Social Democrats and purported deliverers of the nation from the real problem of Howardism, indicate the acceptance of sertain responsibilities which transcend even narrow material gain for “self first”.
    Therefore her labour hire policy does seem odd, given the real things that are at stake as professed ideals and refer directly to to the concept of “integrity” (which money cannot buy).
    This writer sincerely beleives that the only person now capable of clearing public unease at what has developed, is Ms Rein herself!
    That would be through setting records and impressions straight through clear public statements from herself.

    Comment by paul walter — May 25, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  7. Am I right in recalling that the AWA problem arose in a business that Therese Rein’s company bought, before they bought it? And that when the injustice was subsequently discovered it was sorted out?

    Comment by MikeM — May 25, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  8. Graham Young and Mike M make excellent points.
    Malcolm Turnbull was pinged a matter of months ago on an accomodation rort constructed around the manipulation of the concept of Lucy Turnbull’s property rights.

    Comment by paul walter — May 26, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  9. Yes : Conflict of Interest is always a perplex for citizens and their performance of “self governance”.
    Given most people everywhere have presented a resourceful wash-up on the arguements well, and I agree this is a new and interesting one for Australia… how I adore to see us ALL challenged to learn…
    I wanted to point out a problem similar that occurs in Local Government.
    All these leaders as representatives and many of their partners are mixed up in someway with owning a local business.
    ie: Builders, Local Tourist Operators, Catering, Station Owners…
    Unfortunately local peoples seem to like it this ways – seeing these people as the only kinds of people who can govern?
    So how do we draw the line on Conflict of Interest if we are serious about what we want from the bottom to the top?
    My own view on the Rudd and partner knowledge poole is;
    a) I admire Therese’s business because it is one employment agency that deals with DISTANCE, something we could investigate as a para-frame to service rural areas better.
    b) The knowledge should we gain from Therese expertise is good for Australia as someone whose business is just as much about the PSP employment program (unemployed person supports) as it is for Business and Business Training groups.
    What a “do by example” icon we have within our nations grasp!
    My advise to the Rudds is “don’t sell”, don’t fear anything… Australia is watching and that is truly a GOOD THING!

    Comment by Maria Altmann — May 26, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

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