Friday, October 05, 2012

Spare me: Woolworths’ Simon Berger is not a victim of the left, nor of Twitter

Disclaimer: I am, via the self-administered superannuation fund, a Woolworths shareholder.

Even so: here’s the unofficial (for now) News Limited line on his resignation, courtesy (if that’s the right word) (I’m open to alternatives) of News’ Chris Kenny, via Twitter:

“Simon Berger is a good man...and worked hard for Woolies. I'm shopping at Coles #auspol Companies shouldn't be bullied by twitter kids”

For those who need the background, it’s at the end of the post.

“Twitter kids” are irrelevant here: what was at issue, almost immediately, were judgment, credibility, and capacity to continue in a role.

Among other things, Simon Berger’s job description included “government relations”. In the case of Woolworths (as with Coles), “government relations” can be described as “ensuring that the government doesn’t decide to fragment a cozy duopoly that can freely fleece both ends of the supply chain, suppliers and consumers alike”.

As Australian bowler Bill O’Reilly said when asked to “tell the truth” about his relationship with Don Bradman – in a quote later appropriated by, and frequently attributed to, Gough Whitlam: “You don’t piss on statues.”

That’s what Berger did: he pissed on a statue. For a person holding his position, the decision to provide a “chaff bag” as an auction item for a Liberal Party university fundraiser was an atrocious lapse of judgment and taste.

His involvement was witless – and it’s the witlessness, rather than the politics, that probably cost Berger his job at Woolworths. In the kind of blokey “hur, hur” mentality that infects and infests politics in Australia, Simon Berger thought that that pissing on the Prime Minister was a Good Idea.

There are only two reasons for someone holding the job title “government relations”. One is that they’re supremely good at what they do. The other is that they have accumulated a killer phone book.

If a government relations manager does something to ensure that about 80 percent of his phone book won’t answer his calls, he is a liability. By donating the “Woolworths chaff bag”, Simon Berger became that liability.

Not only would the entire Labor side of politics put him on the “do not call” list, anybody on the Liberal/National side who was either (a) horrified by what he did, or (b) terrified of being associated with him – would decline his calls.

Only a tiny handful of L/NP politicians would happily align themselves with the auctioned chaff bag – and Woolworths must know this.

The background, in case you live in a cave: Alan Jones smeared the Prime Minister Julia Gillard with the atrocious claim that her father “died of shame”, in a speech given to a bunch of booze-and-bonk university Liberals. The same skanky fund-raiser was partly supported by the donation of a jacket made out of a “chaff bag”, courtesy Simon Berger. This, in turn, referenced an early insult from the creepy Jones, that the PM should be drowned at sea in a chaff bag. 

Update: @HenryInnis is offended by what I say. I'll put it more simply, for the children: if your job is public relations, Rule One is don't upset your audience. Whatever context the Liberal Students want to try to apply, post-facto, to Simon Berger's auction item - it was bound to upset his audience. That's not a matter of politics. Its a matter of intellect and judgment. As I already said.

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