What about the pillow talk?

Herald- Sun

5th June 2007


QUESTIONS still surround Therese Rein's decision to sell the Australian arm of her job placement business.


If her husband Kevin Rudd became prime minister, she said, it would not be sensible for her company to receive one dollar of a  Federal  Government budget. And the politics might impact negatively on her 800 staff, she said.


One wonders, however, if the decision relates more to the forthcoming election and less to possible conflicts of interest.


Unless there is no pillow-talk in the marriage, Rudd surely cannot be as ignorant of his wife's business as he told the  media .


Any potential conflicts of interest ought to be avoidable or disclosable.


But for  several reasons not basically related to possible interest conflicts, this is a very good time for Rein to sell and for Rudd himself to avoid potential issues that could arise during the election campaign.


The chairman of parent company Ingeus, former public service board head Mike Codd, indicated no comments will be made on the sale and related matters.


But why the secrecy?


From husband Kevin's viewpoint it may be important to rid himself from possible association with the workplace relations policies of his wife's business.


It is difficult to determine exactly what these policies are because, as one journalist explained to me, shifting spin from Rudd's office has caused the story to change from  the original account.


Much attention has been given to the initial explanation of the 45-cent gap between the award and the contract entitlements of some staff. Rein supposedly `` inherited'' the contracts from the company she bought.


This situation was supposedly rectified when the gap was discovered some months later. The spin was that it was an honest mistake by Rein.


But it was then reported that the  previous owner, a   former unionist, said he handed over contracts that showed payments above the award.


As a ``good Labor man'' he did not want to say more.


That led to Therese Rein acknowledging that new contracts were set after the takeover and asserting that the entitlements mirrored or exceeded the award.


But if so why the 45-cent gap?


And have the new common law contracts observed all the requirements Work Choices legislation imposes on employers?


It would be ironic if Kevin Rudd's wife has not been able to comply with a legislated safety net his party has been attacking as inadequate and below the fundamental minimum the community expects.


Have Rein's companies in fact been trying to secure precisely the types of flexibilities available in union-hated AWAs and  were the contracts registered? 


It is important to clarify the situation. If the wife of a possible new prime minister can make serious mistakes, even to the point of feeling forced to sell a business, how would other businesses fare under a new government with greater workplace regulations?


Would employers then be more reluctant to take on new employees?


Over to you, Kevin.