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If anyone thinks Therese Rein is going to quietly sell her business after a ‘sharp chat’ with Kevin, they should think again – judging from my personal experience with Therese.

She won’t be reined in

If only that pesky Therese Rein would sell her annoying business and start behaving like a political wife (see my blog from yesterday). At least this is the tone creeping into the commentary today after Kevin Rudd said yesterday he needed to have a “sharper chat” with Therese.

Quickly the old men of the media jumped on these comments and added their voices. Dennis Shanahan at The Australian says that now Rudd will be faced with the terrible choice of telling his wife she is going to have to sell the business.

Well guys, guess what? The world has changed. Husbands don’t tell their wives to do things anymore. Or if they do, most sensible women don’t listen. They make their own choices.

What is more, I don’t fancy Kevin’s chances in this sharper chat with Therese. This is one woman who is very determined. What is more, this business, Ingeus, is her passion.

I know this first hand from interviewing her for a story three years ago when I was working at BRW. I had been following Rein and her company’s evolution from start-up to global success, and I was interviewing her on how and why she changed strategy in the early days.

Once again she explained how her business was successfully getting work-injured employees, whose cases had been put in the “too-hard basket”, quickly back to work.

This was abbreviated in the story into finding new work for the “basket cases”. Rein rang as soon as the magazine hit the press. Although we had not quoted Rein as using the words basket cases, she was still outraged at its use in the story. One key reason for starting the business was to overcome the stereotyping, she told us.

We were embarrassed and I remember all of us, from editors to subs, asking how the word had got through all the checks. We immediately apologised, wrote an apology for the next issue, wrote an apology for the internet – which is still there – and got back to work.

But the phone calls kept coming. I stopped taking the calls and in the end the editor’s personal assistant was becoming so upset by them that we contemplated getting our lawyer involved!

It seemed obvious to me that the use of these words had triggered off some emotional response in Rein that seemed out of proportion to the issue. Don’t forget she was inspired to start her company – and into this line of work after her father, an air force pilot, who had become a paraplegic in World War II, had difficulty getting work.

Like all successful entrepreneurs, Rein started her business based on a passion. She started just as the recession in 1989 was biting. She had three young children, a traveling husband and had to take out a personal loan from the bank. That takes a lot of guts.

She then used her astute skills to build a global empire. Anyone who thinks this woman is going quietly after a “chat” should think again.

 

For more It’s My Shout blogs, click here.

 

Comments

Marco Tapia from PicNet Pty Ltd writes: Well Amanda, you may have got it wrong this time… and did you see how she got to sit in the rear seats of the car that went to pick her up from the airport… while KR went to the front seat.??… even more embarrassing.

I admire her business and her entrepreneurship, but she has let lots of women down over the weekend and she has boosted JH’s chances.

As a business owner and entrepreneur myself, I can’t sleep thinking that this wonderful economy and country can be handed over to people like Sawn, Smith and the lady who is deputy (can’t remember her name). I am scared for my money, my business and 20+ people I employ… how they will be all stuffed up by that Labor lot (if elected).

John H has not been perfect but the economy has been perfect (or even better). Just for that he needs to remain in charge (posted 28 May).

 

Susan Rushworth writes: Boy, oh boy, has this one got me going!

Number 1: Would we even be having this discussion if Therese was the aspiring PM and Kevin the successful business man.

Number 2: There is a difference between making a mistake and correcting it through normal governance procedures (as Leighton Jenkins points out), and only fixing the ‘mistake’ when external parties bring it to light and embarrass you. Having been aware of Therese Rein, her business values and its values long before Kevin Rudd became a candidate for PM, I find the honest mistake explanation credible and would like to hear evidence rather than speculation to the contrary.

Number 3: What short memories we have. It is not so long ago that John Howard’s brother’s business went bust with no provision for employee’s entitlements and was bailed out with public money. I don’t recall anyone suggesting beforehand that Stan Howard should sell his business.

There are double standards galore in this debate (posted 28 May).

 

Walt Raleigh writes: I think that Therese Rein (Rudd) is a brilliant woman, one that should be admired and applauded for what she has achieved. I also think that Rudd is an idiot. Why?

  1. He knew that the problem existed even before he became leader. Did he think it wouldn’t surface?
  2. In pursuing the line he has on IR and attacking even those unfortunate employers who have, through no fault of their own, become his cannon fodder, he has dragged his wife into the mud. If he is so smart how come he didn’t realise this would happen. Maybe he didn’t care!
  3. It would only be, a self-centered egotist who would allow his wife to be compromised as Therese has been. He knew from the beginning that her business was largely made up of government contracts and that if Labor came to power there would be a major conflict of interest. Why wait until now to try and resolve it?
  4. He also knew the passion his wife brought to her business, but obviously this was not a consideration in his quest for power.

This man has allowed his ego to override good judgement and has put his party in a real predicament, because every thoughtful Australian must now seriously consider his suitability as a potential leader of this nation (posted 28 May).

 

Jodie Benveniste writes: Therese Rein gives Kevin Rudd credibility. At last a political wife who doesn’t just stay home and do the washing! But the issue of conflict of interest, if indeed Kevin wins the top job, is real. I hope it doesn’t result in a sale. A savvy business woman in the Prime Minister’s ear is 21st century politics at last! (posted 25 May).

 

Geoff Gallagher writes: Therese is a warm, honest, considerate and compassionate person as well as being a determined and passionate business person. What Therese has done is to show the world that you do not have to be a hard nosed bitch/bastard to be successful in business. The forced sale of her business would be akin to having to watch your family home be destroyed (posted 25 May).

 

John Flint writes: The conflict of interest issue could be aptly handled in a variety of ways at the company’s boardroom and management levels. I see it not as a conflict of interest, but rather as a synergy of interest. Hillary Clinton added to Bill’s judgement by putting things into real human terms. Heather Beattie adds to Premier Beattie’s knowledge and feel in the health arena in Queensland. We should be privileged that we as Australians can get the advice of an astute businesswoman – in areas of social importance – for the price of a prime minister. Just imagine a team in the Lodge with a real business heart. Looks good for Australia!

 

Craig Patterson writes: The Labor Party needs to understand that Therese having a business gives Kevin Rudd a lot more credibility with business. Particularly in achieving a real balance between the aspiration of all parties involved.

 

Leighton Jenkins from The Jenkins Partnership writes: I think that there have been two trains of negative comment to the issue at hand, the first being the underpayment and that the staff are being paid at just over award rates. From my reading, the underpayment was ‘caught’ by the governance processes in place – she gets my tick for this. On the second matter, I think that we have to remember that one of the major criteria for winning these back to work contracts is price. Low investment by the government means low wages for the staff – a reality!

 

Lexie Henderson-Lancett writes: Why are journalists missing the main issue about the Therese Rein ‘incident’? Certainly she is to be acknowledged for building such a huge business, single handed, as we are led to believe. And sure, she discovered a discrepancy in salaries and re-paid it – to those still around anyway.

But isn’t this flying in the face of Labor Party beliefs in fairness for workers? Haven’t we all been exposed to a fearful campaign run by the trade unions featuring bosses as ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ because they forced workers off their hard earned salaries with entitlements and on to individual contracts?

Isn’t this what Therese Rein has done?

If I could be really cynical, perhaps Mrs Rudd should appear in the union ad of managers sitting round a table discussing how they can do away with penalty rates and over time! She’d fit right in!

I must say I’d really like to hear from some of the workers of her newly acquired Melbourne company to see if they were happy to lose their overtime and shift loadings and sign a management instigated contract?

Why isn’t this work place being investigated by the trade unions? Where is Sharron Burrows? Where is Ms Gillard – why hasn’t she been to visit the workplace as she did with Tristar?

If this company were owned by Joe Hockey’s wife, would the media have drifted away from it like they have with Rudd, given an election is looming?

Has this behaviour really stunned journalists from their warm bed of the ‘poll winning’ new PM contender so much that they can’t begin to dig deeper?

The issue is not one of a family decision as suggested by most of the media, including yourself – it is one of a go-getter forcing workers to meet her requirements. Further, if Rudd were to be PM it would be an international embarrassment for her to continue being awarded those very lucrative government contracts. Has any journo bothered to investigate the tendering process?

The latter is an enormous concern to honest Australians. It wreaks of favouritism, even corruption. And it raises a great deal more scrutiny than a Liberal MP renting his unit from his wife which Labor objected to for days!

I trust you will read the above and be motivated to produce more indepth reporting than just skimming the surface of a critical event!

 

Valentine Whitton at Platinum Group writes: Most people are kind and considerate and passionate about whatever they do, and I am sure Ms Rein is too. However her personal attributes are hardly relevant to this issue. We have put up with “honest John” telling us lies and promising clean government – and we have had nothing but lies, more lies and jobs for the boys from the day he came to power. I want a change of government because I am sick of lies from our leaders. Now we have “honest Kevin”.

What is an “honest mistake”? I keep hearing about the amazing business acumen of Ms Rein, but a mistake is defined as “misunderstanding the meaning of something of significance” or a wrong action arising from faulty judgement, inadequate knowledge or carelessness”. This was Kevin Rudd’s description of his wife’s excuse for this blunder, not mine.

More importantly, we cannot have a prime minister presiding over a multi billion dollar economy with the wife of that person being in line for handouts, regardless of their size, resulting from the actions of the PM (or any variation of an approval process). The conflict of interest question is something that only has two solutions, either she divests herself of all her Australian operations, or we get to vote on a different person for a Labor prime minister.

 

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