30 July 2007

Grubby smear campaign against Barbara Bennett

| Ralph
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You could see this one coming. Barbara Bennett, Workplace Authority boss, has been popping up on the TV recently, even on my Foxtel. Ms Bennett’s TV ads about the workplace reforms were sure to rub somebody (unions and the ALP) up the wrong way, so the leftist Fairfax media has the first bite highlighting that: Ms Bennett lives in the ritzy suburb of Forrest; is renovating her home; is an ex-ALP staffer; and is married to a political lobbyist. It is not entirely clear why any of this is supposed to be relevant.

Now throw in some slimy comments from an anonymous ALP MP:

“Barbara’s a talented woman but she’s got about eight years above herself with this Workplace Authority post,” one Labor MP said.

“Obviously you only get such a leg-up if you give something in return.”

Seems that seniority, not talent, is the name of the game for some people.

However, Ms Bennett’s TV ads do raise an interesting point about the use of public servants for what might be viewed as political purposes.


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Gungahlin Al1:37 pm 16 Sep 08

Indeed Ant – most gracious of you.
Now if “gammar” will just teach grammar…

Good on you, Ms Bennett. You had some contrasting info to give, and gave it. And, despite a lot of negative comment against mother Bennett, this young lady has made a polite, informative reply. Now that is refreshing.

I hope Ms Bennett Snr. is doing well in her career now, and I hope mr Bennett’s burns healed up.

Give the girl a break guys, she’s entitled to have her say.

By responding to old comments more than a year after the thread died its natural death, you bring even more attention to the original post.

Fine form, Apparatchic.


Congratulations in reviving a story you wanted buried.
*clap* *clap* *clap*

If you want to check out just how caring and concerned Barbara Bennett(Hotlips Hoolihan)is just Google and read of her generous nature when she was with Comcare. Such a sweetie!!

Unions have certainly out-campaigned the govt on this issue – but I dont know who thinks having a cheerleader as head of the supposedly independant authority helps matters. Or if anyone thinks there is anywhere near as much independant review as was in the IRC.

Maybe they could get one of the bogany ones to shout out “Johnny fucken rocks” in the ad.

(Like one of the Kennett ads in 99)

Next they will just get cute young public servants to do ads saying ‘vote liberal1’

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so…. teh person who administers it shouldnt be entitled to promote it ?

shab old man you have finally lost it.

I don’t see the Government rushing to put out ads debunking the McDonalds ‘makeupyourownmind’ campaign.

The similarity in the McDonalds campaign is that it is a privately funded advertising campaign that aims to inform people of the McDonalds view of the world, akin to the union campaign.

Therefore there is an imbalance.

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the ads seem quite balancved to me.

theres legislation.

union ads have distorted the public perception.

the ads point people to accurate information.

entirely appropriate.

I don’t know where she’s been sticking her tongue but Ms Bennett certainly seems to have a deep throat.

Ingeegoodbee6:26 pm 01 Aug 07

I think that the issue here is complicated by the fact that Bennett was specifically recruited to her current role in order to deliver the TV campaign – something that seems to not be considered newsworthy.

It’s not just a case of a pube treading a fine line between independent and objective advice and straight out toadying. Hell there’s a pantheon of oxygen bandits including Jane Halton, Roger Beale and Hillary Penfold that have made a career out of sticking their tongue all the way down the back of Howard’s trousers, but they have been too inept or too un-photogenic to front a full on campaign – enter Ms Bennett …

The inescapable reality is that Bennett is a willing participant in strategy designed to promote an unpopular policy whilst at the same time distancing the Government from that same policy – she’ll get rewarded if the Coalition gets re-elected and she’ll get what she deserves if Rudd gets in – it’s a straight forward gamble.

I figure one of three things has happened here:

1. She’s been promised something by the Govt if it all goes pear-shaped.
2. She’s siezed her chance to be agency head over other possible candidates who were unwilling to engage in this kind of politicing; gambling that the Libs will get back in and her name will be made.
3. She’s done with the PS and is trying to get her name out there for some kind of private sector gambit.


Yes that there’s a fourth possibility as discussed by former Public Service Commissioner Andrew Podger on the 7.30 Report recently. You can access the interview here:

His concerns are highlighted in the story summary for those who don’t want to watch the whole thing:

Former Health Department secretary and public service commissioner Andrew Podger, who has served both Labor and Liberal governments in a 37-year career, says a combination of salary bonuses and relatively short-term contracts for senior public servants has served to reduce the independence of the bureaucracy.

So with the right “incentives” Ms Bennett may have been bought by her current political masters and may be as easily induced to change her tune if there’s a change of government.

And yes, it’s extremely worrying but it’s not a new phenomena. Rather it represents a politicization of the public service that’s been happening incrementally for some years. Nor is it confined to one side of politics. Indeed, as Andrew Podger points out, it’s even further progressed at the state and territory level.

The blame rests not just with the PS but with politicians of all persuasions as well. The recent ACT government budget ads are a variation on the theme. The bottom line is, if they want to push a political line, they should pay for it out of party funds.

The legal means for stopping this do not appear to exist. Politicians have no incentive to stop it and I’m sure there will always be plenty of public servants who can be bought. Which means it’s up to the press and the public to reject the concept.

Unfortunately, these days that tends to be something a compliant press and a hip-pocket voting public don’t bother to do until it’s too late.

smiling politely6:44 pm 31 Jul 07

I think this was first raised at the SMH’s FOI blog back on 26 July – http://blogs.smh.com.au/newsblog/archives/freedom_of_information/014727.html, and it’s also been raised at Tim Dunlop’s “Blogocracy” site at News Ltd.

This is a good topic to raise, though, admittedly, as I have found with most of your comments across various posts Ralph, I don’t agree with your point of view here.

Ms Bennett’s actions are not ethically sound and are arguably inconsistent with the APS values as outlined in the Public Service Act. By merely appearing in a government advertisement on such a contentious policy area – and in the lead up to a Federal election, no less – she is undermining the public perspective of a professional and impartial Australian public service more broadly. Just my bit.

Ah but she doesn’t have to whinge Ingeegoodbee, she has Howard’s lackeys to do it for her.

Ingeegoodbee3:46 pm 31 Jul 07

She’s little more than an opportunist taking advantage of a nasty situation that might pay off, as such she’s in no position to whinge about any sh!t that gets flung her way. Her domestic connection to Steve Anderson whose resume includes lobbyist for the refrigeration industry – making CFCs look good and protecting the interests of innocent CFC/HCFC reliant businesses against the scourge of non-ozone depleting technologies – pretty much sums up the calibre of person the government is desperate enough to try and rope into their sordid little charade.

Ordinarily an ad promoting a “service” like this would be done using actors playing real people who have been helped by that organisation. The problem is is that it hasn’t really helped anyone yet – so they have to wheel out the next best thing – the boss.

Realistically any public servant worth their salt would have knocked back the request immediately.

Aparently the ads were also produced so quickly that the normal testing procedure that the Gov demands on any campaign was waived – in an effort to get them on the air as quickly as possible…

let me just say that i used to work under Ms Bennet and i cant say a nice thing about her at all. She portrays the nice friendly image on TV but let me tell you she wouldnt hold a door open for a staff member lower than a EL 1 if it would save their lives.
She reminds me of the boss on the film “wogboy”
and to be honest probably isnt far off it as well.

In this town, if one is employed at public expense, one is either of two things. One may be a public servant, with all the bits about one’s public life being apolitical. or one can become an urger and advocate for government, otherwise known as a Ministerial staffer (or, if privately remunerated, a News Ltd journalist).

One cannot be both. Ms Bennett’s ads try to be. By making them she has associated herself and her with a Government of a particular persuasion, in relation to an issue of public controversy. Ill-advised at the very least. Ill-judged, almost certainly.

How, after al, would one expect a senior official to be treated who made ads lauding the opposition, even if he or she did so in her own time and at his or her own expense. The Coalition is, at present, in Government – but that is not the same as being identical with Government.

I do not know Ms Bennett personally or professionally. I have no reason to think she is anything other than competent and diligent, and think it unfortunate that she should be the subject of personal attacks.

I reserve my right to have a big rant about the amount and content of government advertising – Commonwealth, ACT and NSW.

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Banning political advertising would be a thoroughly egregious restriction on free speech. How would it be any different from banning political comment on blogs (after all, someone’s paying someone to put this site up, which is no different than paying channel ten to put an ad on the telly)?

However we should reasonably expect that Government advertising (as opposed to, for example, Liberal Party advertising) should be quite clearly in the interests of good government, rather than in the electoral interests of the current governing party. This has always been a difficult line to draw.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt10:14 am 31 Jul 07

Funded by big business versus funded by tax dollars. I wonder how many of those tax dollars arrive in govco coffers, directly and indirectly, because of big business.

Honestly, this is a storm in a teacup.

Fair enough for both sides to have their say VY, but the appropriate forum for that would be the mooted pro-workchoices advertising funded by big business, NOT the current advertising funded by the taxpayer.

And sorry fellas but previous attempts to ban political advertising have been struck down as seriously unconstitutional – see Australian Capital Television v Commonwealth http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1992/45.html

As someone who has been on both sides of the fence ( employer and employee) I can see the issue from both points of view. At one time, as “cranky” has pointed out, you couldn’t get rid of an unproductive employee without them threatening court action or unfair dismissal on some pretext. So the IR laws certainly needed to change to redress this unfairness, however, I believe the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now it’s unscrupulous employers who have the balance of power. Surely there is a middle ground.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt9:47 am 31 Jul 07

I think this is an example of the pendulum swinging. For a while now we have had to put up with union crapola about how every person can suddenly be thrown out in the cold, and now the other side is putting forward their view. Both campaigns support and espouse the views of the supporting organisations.

That said, I’m with Thumper – let’s ban ALL political related advertising (including the unions’).

Woody Mann-Caruso9:46 am 31 Jul 07

Reality, check, Woody.

Sorry, Ralph – I don’t have Mr Bolt’s greased arm slid up my arse, his wrist in my throat, his fingers caressing my forked tongue, telling me what’s real and what isn’t so that I might act as His Satanic Trumpet. I just have to base it on what I independently and objectively see and know to be true.

The original source being referred to, being the Fairfax article, was appropriately referenced. The rest on my part is called editorial license. What else can I say other than great minds think alike.

Go IP digging, but you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. I’ll save ya the trouble, it’s a Bigpong IP.

The admins know me.

Shab, I reckon 2 and 3.

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Gungahlin Al9:38 am 31 Jul 07

Thumper: looking over their shoulders or looking up mates in the “big end” of town for far higher-paying roles? But yes indeed – something of a shake-up seems to be on the cards.

Pierce: Bolt and Ralph being one and the same…now that is a most intriguing possibility! They certainly sing from the same song sheet on all things greenhouse and Liberal policy. And they could both be paid-up subscribers to Alan Jones’ show if there were such a thing.
Perhaps NTP or Jazz could do a bit of IP digging to uncover a what would be a real media hot potato? Although plagairism is the more likely situation, it is just intriguing enough to warrant some digging.
Not that I would deny a journo the right to say their piece (Bolt certainly doesn’t hold back!) – in fact I believe more journos should put their money where their mouth is by standing for political roles themselves. My respect certainly goes to Maxine McKew for going Howard.

The business campaign will be up and running soon Mael. They are throwing a few million into the pot.

Further politicisation of the public sector could lead to something like the US where heads of agencies are political appointments, and spokespersons for the government.

Yes Thumper, but I chose to pay for it.

I did not choose for the Government to run their current campaign, they did that of their own volition.

Perhaps if the business lobbyists that have been so exclusively supported by this current government would like to cough up some of their own money to run an advertising campaign I’d be more lenient towards offering them a fair perspective of their side of the story, but they aren’t, so I’m not.

It is not the responsibility of the Government to nurse the leeches that have been getting fat off the back of slapstick policy, without the leeches giving a little back to the Government in return.

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To reiterate the blatantly obvious distinctions which exist between the government’s “WorkChoices” advertisements (starring the infamous Barb Bennett) and the ACTU’s “Your Rights at Work” campaign which have been highlighted by other RiotActers:

* The ACTU’s campaign is political campaigning which is presented transparently as political campaigning by a political organisation, unlike the “WorkChoices” campaign which is partisan political advertising conducted by the Executive Government on behalf of the Coalition and thinly veiled as a “public service announcement”;

* The “WorkChoices” advertising is funded by taxpayers, paying tax is compulsory; whereas the “Your Rights at Work” campaign is funded by union fees, membership of a union and payment of fees is entirely optional.

* The extent of the “WorkChoices” campaign goes beyond what is reasonably necessary or proportionate to the need to educate the public about the regulatory system and is clearly designed to lobby voters on behalf of the Howard Govt. If this campaign was in fact intended to merely educate people as to the legislative scheme, why was the campaign devised before the legislation had even been presented in Parliament, let alone actually been enacted and become law? Why has the frequency of the advertising reached such a fever pitch in recent weeks? Does it have anything to do with Howard’s poor showing in the polls, the imminent nature of the election, or is it purely a coincidence? How much is this advertising costing the public purse?

* Given these circumstances it might be said that a reasonable observer could conclude that Barbara Bennett is spearheading a party political campaign on behalf of the Howard govt. If this were so, that would be a breach of the idea that the public service serves all Australians and thus must be and be seen to be politically neutral. That would be concerning.

Nicely spotted Bugalugs – of course, it’s not plagiarism if they are one and the same.

As Public Servants we will serve the Government who knows what is best for the public. If only those pesky journalists would stop pointing out things the Government doesn’t agree with.

By the way.
Freedom is Slavery
War is Peace
Ignorance is Strength.

I take it you thought a post here might discount your National Party membership!

I think it is scandalous.

So much for the impartial public service.

And the millions they are spending on these useless ads while our hospitals crumble is amazingly depressing.

I’m a (very) small businessman with employees.
I welcomed the ability to get rid of one dead wood employee, without the wretch taking me to court. In such a small business, one employee with a problem can crucify output, and poison the workplace relations.
Howard grabbed the opportunity to take unfair dismissal to the total dismemberment of employee rights. I am disgusted at this turn of events, believing there are mongrel employers out there who will take every advantage of employees, with Little Johnnys approval.
I cringe at every advert promoting Fed Gov programs. They are all Liberal re-election stunts using taxpayer funds to finance them.
Howard & Co. You are still mean and tricky. You have lost me.


Firstly, maybe an idea to credit your opening comments to Andrew Bolt’s blog today. It is a word for word rip off. Tsk Tsk poor form

Secondly – you are a knob!

bd84, union members who don’t think that the anti-WorkChoices ads are a good use of their money can quit the union & pay no more fees.

Last I checked I am not allowed to quit paying tax because I don’t like how it’s used.

You appear to have difficulties with the concept of public monies.

Ruby Wednesday9:25 pm 30 Jul 07

bd84, last time I checked, the Your Rights At Work levy on union members was optional. Union membership itself is optional. Paying tax is, alas, not optional. So while almost everyone is a taxpayer and this you can use semantics to call the union campaign ‘taxpayer funded’, I don’t think many will get sign up to your very wide interpretation of the term.

Here here.

Barbara is simply doing the job that she is paid to do.

The Workplace Authority is there for a reason.. people obviously need to know about it, so the ads seem to be fairly decent to me. They make no outlandish or untrue statements, and is it really any different if there was someone else was the face of the ad? of course not. Nor would the wording make a difference, the same people would jump on it and say the same things, it is politics after all.

It just seems to be the Labor aka Trade Union whingers who are the ones complaining because they’re spoiling the scare campaign they’ve been running for the past year.

Anyway every person who now gets sacked from any job for any reason now only has to go to TodayTonight/ACA and say I got sacked because of “Work Choices” and bam.. there’s the story of the week, it’s getting beyond a joke.

Plus I’ve already seen the trade unions ramp up their campaign against the government, but of course that’s “not” political advertising on behalf of the Labor party.

I do believe these are tax payer funded ads too.. Unions do charge money to people who are members, who also pay taxes. Same sh*t different name.

Get over it people.

“I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you”


Will this impact her career if Labor is elected to govt at the impeding poll?

One would think so. To be replaced by unionised labour, with no talent, but had been around the longest – seniority rules. Oh, the utopian vision.

But despite Labor’s anonymous grubby comments it is pot kettle black as far as they’re concerned.

Despite all the screeching, Labor ran Government ads and had political appointments in the public sector, and are doing both as we speak at the state level (think Actew Chairman).

Reality, check, Woody.

impending – d’oh!

There exists a long standing convention of Westminster government that the public service must be and be seen to be politically neutral.

I feel this convention is breached by Ms Bennett’s participation in the so called “WorkChoices” ad blitz.

Consider the frequency, saturated distribution and emotive tone of the advertisements – it seems to me that they are not a legitimate public education campaign, rather they are a device to spruke the laws by an increasingly desperate Howard government, just months out from an election.

Will this impact her career if Labor is elected to govt at the impeding poll?

Woody Mann-Caruso7:49 pm 30 Jul 07

“WorkChoices is something I believe in very much…” she said.

You’ll be first against the wall when the revolution comes. Ministers are the mouthpiece of the government. Officials should be neither seen nor heard – that way, you can serve the next government without the taint of capture.

Anyway, you could see this one coming. Barbara Bennett, Workplace Authority boss, has been popping up on the TV recently, even on Ralph’s Foxtel. Public outcry about Bennett’s shameless shilling were sure to rub somebody (Ralph) up the wrong way, so this little goosestepper has the first bite highlighting that: newspapers aren’t yet the mouthpiece of the Liberal party, but they should be; people are idiots for expecting Secretary-level appointments to be apolitical; the Workplace Authority ads are thinly-veiled election propaganda, and that’s a good thing, otherwise you wouldn’t know who to vote for; and if you slip in an apparently neutral comment at the end of a politically-motivated rant of a post, it makes you look like an objective commentator rather than, say, Winston’s lapdog. It is not entirely clear why any of this is supposed to be relevant.

Ingeegoodbee6:48 pm 30 Jul 07

Ralph, what you say might make more sense if it wasn’t so transparent that this cynical exercise is simply a device to try and, by proxy, flog a decreasingly gullible electorate a flawed policy.

I just wish she had practiced saying “law”. It’s LAW not “Lowah”. URGH

Alan Fels, and other statutory agency heads, are tasked with a specific purpose and are generally expected to make public comment on issues that fall within their jurisdiction.

It seems that Barbara is doing exactly the same thing though.

Ingeegoodbee6:32 pm 30 Jul 07

I’ve had this vacuous cats bum of an oxygen bandit pollute my evening viewing on more than one occasion. Apparently they shafted a perfectly good department head and replaced them with this pathetic excuse for a pube because the former simply refused to be part of the Governments desperate charade.

The Aust. Govt’s answer to Marilyn Munroe. Hope we see more of her (well, within reason…)

No problem with using heads of agencies to advertise their services or to make the public aware.

Have a real problem when the ads blatently are politically biased, such as “There’s been a lot of myths about Workcover”. Myths?. That’s a loaded word designed to influence the viewer’s perspective and imply other people’s (i.e. Labor’s) criticism of Workcover is wrong. A non-partisan wording would be “Here are the facts about Workcover.”

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