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The Quick and the Dead

Happy New Year! This time of year always brings with it hopes and optimism that the year ahead will be better than the past. Whilst I’m not big on new years’ resolutions, it’s always a time to reflect on current statuses and compare to last years’ goals, then set new ones. Of course plans change, last New Years we hadn’t planned on running around in gum boots with mud splatter in the face cleaning up from the floods, so already this year is looking decidedly better for us, but unfortunately some people are going through floods this year too.

I’m not saying that the past is always that bad though! Sometimes things are just better left untouched. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what do you do if it is broken, but the fix is worse than before? That was the reaction to the last Newsletter on Nationalisation of OH&S rules. I should have highlighted one further irrationality with that new law (which has applied in Workplace relations since the introduction of Fair Work). Business is the only section of our society with a reverse onus of proof, that is, the business is guilty until you prove yourself innocent. So if I say someone called me a name and I didn’t like it (no witnesses), it’s up to the business to prove me wrong, or I can claim discrimination… If there is an accident in your workplace, you are at fault, until you can prove you had in place all measures to prevent it. Seem fair?

A New Year usually heralds new rules, and this time it’s no different. There is now a Personal Property Securities Act (PPSA) which has come into effect 30th of January, 2012, which will have a big impact on anyone who owns machinery or other personal property. Most affected will be those who hire or lease equipment (which means you, our valued customers). Any serial numbered equipment that you have on hire or left with someone for more than 90 days may require registration on the Personal Properties Security Register (PPS Register). Failure to do so may mean that the “holder” of the equipment can sell the item and retain the proceeds. It also means that should the “holder” of the item go bankrupt, into liquidation or voluntary administration; the “holder” can retain the item and sell it for the benefit of the creditors. My interpretation is that we have changed from possession being 9/10ths of the law to 10/10ths. I’m not quite sure who this law change was meant to protect, maybe the buyer? For those that remember Storm Financial and other brokers that went belly up, this also applies to shares, so presumably the only certainty to share owners would be that they would have definitely lost their money and not had any legal recourse. So yet again we have a law that made it harder for honest people to operate, and created a loop hole for scumbags to be able to “legally” cheat you out of your property. The lesson is, if this goes ahead, register your machinery and equipment on the PPS Register, or you leave yourself wide open to have someone take it from you. It’s like the old Western movies, the Quick and the Dead if you don’t act. We were all sooo looking forward to more Bureaucratic Red Tape paperwork….

I always wonder how these laws come about. Take for instance the new commission into Fair Work Australia, which is being conducted by Reserve Bank of Australia board member John Edwards, Justice Michael Moore and legal and workplace relations academic Ron McCallum. Whilst they are meant to investigate how employment relations are working, it’s interesting that there is no employer or employee representation. Clearly the people who write the rules are far removed from the real action, and thereby can’t obtain all views from people who know how the “real world” works. As businesses seem to regularly draw the short straw, maybe it is business that is poorly organised with ineffective Industry organisations to lobby for us? We’re probably too busy running our own businesses and working on things we can control with some certainty to have the time to invest in improving our external operating environments. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from organisations like Get Up, and simply petition Government on particular issues? Most Industry organisations seem to be asleep at the wheel and miss the elephants in the room, probably because they get hijacked by special interests groups or pre-occupied with naval gazing and producing sales and other industry specific data.

Ever wondered when a business is “too big to fail”, or an industry is big enough to require government protection through subsidies? When Ford, General Motors, Bluescope and others cry foul, they have money thrown at them to avoid job losses, with very limited thought as to why they can’t compete with the rest of the world. Yet 97% of Australian businesses are classified as small businesses, and I doubt if most people can list three things that are done to “subsidise” or support them to one day grow into big businesses. We need to find our Sustainable Competitive Advantages as a nation, and then develop high productivity in these areas. Remember the old adage: don’t let people who say it can’t be done stand in the way of those doing it? This film clip highlights what we are up against. A company in China built a 30 story energy efficient building in 15 days! Take a look for yourself:. And they intend to build 50 more per year. Whilst this is happening overseas, we live in a global environment, and once again, it’ll be the Quick and the Dead if we don’t understand that to live in a high cost country we need to be leading the way, not following. Guess we need to start thinking outside the square…

As always, Onwards and Upwards!

Fred Carlsson