March 24, 2015

Working Girl : Lets Herself Go

It's been a long time between posts from Working Girl. And apologies to Treasurer Joe Hockey this week, for making a dent in the unemployment statistics and welfare budget. But unfortunately - as an independent contractor, (apparently) responsible for hiring out and therefore firing myself - I've had to show myself the door and let myself go - aka sacking oneself.

It has to be said though, that things WERE going swimmingly at the office. My fellow contractees and I were getting along harmoniously. Sharing the odd joke here and there, breaking bread together over lunch, as we played musical chairs, passwords, and workstations, and discussed just what did constitute acceptable professional attire in the 21st century workplace?

But then, practically overnight, things between me and Madam Boss went prickly pear-shaped.

It's possible, she had spotted me blowing kisses on CCTV camera footage, and from this, the seeds of hostility were planted. In any case, despite my assorted competencies - quite out of the blue - she sent me a series of poison toned emails  ....on my rostered-day-off no less! 

Please! Please!...enough of this first world drivel you might say? 

However, dear reader, in the interests of supporting socially inclusive blog content (that avoids the first world scourge, known as click bait), please focus.

Initially, Madam Boss said I wasn't filling out my timesheet (aka invoice) correctly (even though it was correct). I would email back to her, an altered version, only to be sent another saying THAT ONE was also incorrect? Then she accused me of stating I was at work, on days when I wasn't ....when I actually was! Maybe I should have worn brighter colours ...whiter whites? Or left more "calling cards" around the office my dog does when we go on walkies around the block?

Of course, my presence could have been instantly confirmed, had she: looked at in-office CCTV surveillance footage, checked the electronic employee time-clock, and lastly - the manual sign-in sheet we also filled out.

Looking back - maybe when signing in - I should have been more like Gen-Y in establishing my attendance, by strategically positioning myself in front of the wall clock, smiling gleefully alongside the annoyingly fresh-faced, size 4 receptionist - and snapping a couple of daily selfies?! 

Nonetheless, I would reply to her irate me-mails in a cordial, professional manner ...using American sit-com office-worker, Mary Tyler Moore, as my role model du jour.  However, this made no difference, and Madam Boss would subsequently reply, chastizing me for sending update emails to her, on days when she wasn't in the office. She also became somewhat cyclonic, upon discovering she'd paid me twice. However, I corrected her error by promptly refunding the money. And then she paid me twice again! 

I so loved that about her. 

But then she CC'd to me, an email (that I paraphrase here for brevity), between herself and HRGuy. Nothing wrong with that. Standard office procedure. However, the discussion concerned moi of course, and how I was such a silly sausage ...all because I assigned a wrong date! to one of the tasks noted on my action plan - going forward.  HRGuy of course, "replied to all", with a lengthy note to Madam Boss, confirming what a learning challenged klutz he also thought I was. 

Was there no satisfying that woman, and her obsequious HRGuy (...who I formerly, and unbelievably! considered as potential date material?) 

Maybe it was a fall moon week? Can't remember. Perhaps it's what to expect in this year of the goat ...going forward?

On the homefront however, it's been a fab week my chainsaw waving, fish-fern challenged neighbour, has finally left the block! 

March 18, 2015

TV Last Night : Q&A Talks Up Middle-Class Welfare, Creative Accountants & Gen Wise

On television, I'm seeing Dr Karl Kruszelnicki strutting across a stage. His glaring yellow pants and dotty shirt have my attention. But he’s not auditioning as a Banana in Pyjama, selling a new ice-cream flavour, or launching into a TED Talk.  The one sure thing, is that it's cool, clever advertising.

Hard to believe, that the Indigestable .... er I mean Intergenerational Report: Australia in 2055, is being marketed to the Australian masses like it's a new energy drink.

And no surprises, across the media, the clear take-home message from the report (bleated ad nauseum), is that badass baby boomers are hoarding the nation's wealth, living far too long! (despite avoiding kale like the plague), and depriving future generations of attaining the comfortable living standards that they so enjoy.

So tuning in to Monday night's Q&A, we learn how the shifty financial manoeuvrings, of cashed up-property rich baby boomers (not to be confused with cashed up-property rich politicians), enables them to live large while they continue receiving the age pension.  

And so, it's apparently because of THEM that the country's finances are so stuffed - moving forward toward 2055 (forgive mon French!) ... But really people what's the rush? ....isn't anyone else still coming to terms with 2015? ...and trying to live in the moment meaningfully? ... I digress.

In fact, at the start of Q&A, esteemed host Tony Jones did rather jovially emphasize, that he'd be dead by 2055 anyway (and replaced - no doubt by a series of nubile goat latte sipping, 20-something hipsters, no less).

Alas, from Treasurer Joe Hockey and the rest of the panel, we learn that such folk maintain their bountiful household budgets (at the taxpayers expense), with the help of financial advisors who are - to be succinct - the chartered accountant equivalent of versatile, Breaking Bad go-to lawyer, Saul Goodman.

And that's where my enjoyment of Monday night's Q&A program ends. Because even a learning challenged Wiggle would know that statistics never present a complete picture. Subsequently, the Intergenerational Report (and last night's Q&A discussion), tell a story of wishy-washy averages. For example, according to other current data (Source: CEPAR), the average older Australian is:
1. a 75 year old Anglican woman,
2. who drives a car, 
3. votes for the Coalition,
4. lives at home with her spouse,
5. in a 3 bedroom home ...with broadband access, 
6. has a nursing qualification,
7. weekly income of $200-$400,
8. most likely has never heard of quinoa,
9. and mashes rather than smashes her spuds.
These snapshots unfortunately omit any mention of boomers, or on-the-cusp boomers (boomettes?) who:

1. are unemployed,
2. in the 50 plus age-range that potential employers are allergic to, 
3. spouse-free (statistically code for desperate dateless singletons)
4. have no nursing qualification because they faint at the sight of blood,
5. so now have a useless degree, and non-career going forward, to match,
6. vote for dark-chocolate every time,  
7. confuse the paleo diet with the annual il palio horse race in Italy,
8. feel remarkably on trend in their downsized abodes - this being an unexpected upside to never having the budget, or desire to upsize (to impress peers), in the first place,
9. struggle with the correct pronunciation of quinoa,
10. one could go on ...

And so it went, that questioning on Q&A  initially focused solely on generation Hipster (youth unemployment, irritating HECS, and so forth), giving the impression that baby boomers are as relevant to the 21st century workplace, as Olivetti typewriters,  and thus, don't deserve a mention ...Unless questions related to end of life planning and euthanasia arise - in which case, Gen Selfie (aka Hipster Youth) are more than ever, convinced in to saying YES PLEASE to earnestly pulling the plug on Gen Wise - and so reduce their expensive "over-use" of health services resources... going forward.  

So midway through, I had to swiftly protest by unplugging Tony Jones, and tuning in to the more palatable Splendido Gold with Federico - over on TVSN much more riveting, soothing, and inclusive.


Aussie politicians $300m property portfolio

$250K is Struggle Street for Some Australians

Image: flickr

March 9, 2015

Cryptic Job Vacancy of The Week

Role:  Creative Technology Activator

Duration: Temporary 6 month role

Where: City of Melbourne Library


Essentials:  Applicant "should be a leader in idea generation, digital production, emerging technologies, and have an understanding or experience in utilising creative technology to share and interact with an idea,

". . and will ideally, have an excellent knowledge of the maker movement" (please explain? are we talking homespun snoods, neenish tarts and cupcakes here?), 

. . . and a demonstrated ability to collaboratively "activate" creative spaces." (Is this HR code for an IT savvy Banana in Pyjama? or geek, who - when not devising an app that predicts & charts one's own bowel movements - moonlights as a weekend Wiggle?)

Note: "The position description for this role will not be provided at this stage of application." (No surprises there).

Anyone unphased by this job description should


illustration: By via flickr

March 5, 2015

Mature Lady Jobseeker, Lands Plum Role - In 007 Movie, Spectre

Going against the predictable Hollywood norm where the leading man lusts after a Barbie Doll half his age, finally, in the new 007 film - Spectre - Daniel Craig's love interest is a mature dame of fifty. And isn't it about time.

Initially, Italian actress Monica Belluci, thought she was being cast for the Miss Moneypenny role. It's hoped her character, Lucia Sciarra, is not killed off in the first five minutes, thus leaving the role open to a new starlet, after all. 

For more inspiration from the movies read this...

February 23, 2015

Big bucks up for grabs when governments outsource unemployment

Source :  The Conversation
 Author:   Janine O'Flynn, University of Melbourne

Outsourcing public services is a tricky business; but there is no doubt a “business” it has become. Billions of dollars in social services are delivered by other parties, under contract, to governments across Australia, the costs and benefits of which, we are often unsure of.
When to outsource, to whom, and how to structure these relationships remains a fundamental challenge in public management practice. Where the limits to outsourcing actually are is not an economic decision alone, but has both political and moral dimensions. What can, and should, be done by government and who should get to make a buck in the complex market for public services?

The enormous range of public services that governments provide means there is no easy answer, but some we might care more about than others. Do we really care who collects our rubbish or delivers our mail? Some may, some may not. But what about who runs prisons, operates detention centres, or places the unemployed into jobs?
Can we stomach, politically and morally, profits being made from the misery of others and how do we create performance and accountability systems to guard against exploitation?
The Jobs Game, aired on the ABC TV Four Corners, takes us right to the centre of this debate. 

Four Corners lays out a series of claims of questionable behaviours by a small number of providers in Job Services Australia.
These providers, it argues, are exploiting the unemployed and returning big profits rather than assisting jobseekers into work. Since 1998 when the privatised system came into play, almost $18 billion has been paid out to providers – both for-profit and non-profit organisations. The current scandal covers a range of practices and claims – some new, some old.
Some of the claims centre on providers who have allegedly falsified documents to gain government payments. Others are extracting large amounts of money in the system by setting up their own registered training organisations and filling them with jobseekers. Others simply park the most needy in the too hard basket. Big players are making big bucks, not just in Australia, but in similar businesses servicing governments around the world and returning hefty dividends to shareholders.
But where is government in this story? In a major report from 2013, Jobs Australia, a peak body for providers lamented the current approach arguing it had a misalignment of incentives, was too complex, too focused on compliance, had become transactional, had minimal innovation, and, in sum, was underperforming.
In its quest for compliance, such a rule-bound system, fixated on narrow performance metrics can create major distortions. Government is now out of the provider game, but as purchaser is now in the business of market design. It is here where the hard grind of outsourcing begins.
As the only purchaser in town for many of these services, they can largely set prices, rules, and performance monitoring regimes. And providers, both for-profits and non-profits, have incentives to “optimise” within these often tightly controlled service delivery regimes. But when does optimising within the rules become a rort? And when does gaming the systems to maximise returns become outright fraud?
Bob Behn, an expert on performance measurement from the Kennedy School has long warned of the challenges of performance measures, incentives and the challenges of contracting in social services. He has argued that those designing performance regimes and reward structures tied to them to always be wary of Campbell's Law: 

"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt if will be to distort and corrupt the social pressures it is intended to monitor.”
Behn himself distinguishes between “honest cheating” and dishonest cheating: “Dishonest cheating is illegal, and you can go to jail for it. Honest cheating is perfectly legal, but everyone thinks of it as cheating”. Drawing on the example of education where test scores are used to measure teacher and school performance, and often to distribute rewards, he has argued that teaching to the test is not illegal but it might very well distort educational outcomes.

Honest cheating is all part of the game. But what about if teachers fill out test papers, correct wrong answers by students, or falsely certify them? Of course, this would be dishonest cheating; the breadth and depth of which was brought to light in the
 Alabama education system where teachers and education officials did just that.
The current scandal takes us back, once again, to the question of the role of the state – what should government do? Who should it work with? And how? Alongside this are big questions about our appetite for outsourcing. Not all providers game the system; not every provider will cheat. Some are actually in the business of working with the unemployed to get jobs.

But an obvious reaction from this case is for government to clamp down harder on all providers, further stifling their ability to deliver on the very social outcomes that government wants. Honest cheating, dishonest cheating, rorting, corruption and gaming: in the end, who really pays? 

Outsourcing of public services is never always the answer, nor is it never the answer. Much of what government needs to do, it simply cannot do alone. But how to structure these relationships, how to ensure the appropriate expenditure of public funds, and how to guard against creating markets for misery, remains an enormous challenge.

Originally published, 23 February 2015 on The Conversation


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Jobs creation is the key to welfare reform


Mutual Obligation: A Love Story?

December 12, 2014

Working Girl : The State of Play

So by the end of week three I'm totally rocking the formal business dress code much easier than trying to nail shabby hipster office-chic. However, I'm puzzled by the way HR Guy turned up today, looking like Gilligan short of an island. And that's SO TRUE! I'm not making this up. Apparently we all have a dead ringer. Mine's the Mona Lisa.


I naturally ask Gilligan what has happened to the formal business attire - that he and the boss lady emphatically proscribed in their joint emails? He said it was too hot for that.  

And Gilligan's right. For, even on average days - when the external temperature sits comfortably at 23 degrees celsius - the temperature inside our workplace, hovers around 28. So our "hot-desks" are literally HOT desks. For a menopausal madam permanently in search of a breeze, that's too dam hot!  Worse than being stuck in Honiara airport without a visa (so I imagine). And not helping are the windows that don't open. However, I've got accustomed to it, by strategically sitting beneath the ceiling fan set on high ...careful not to self-decapitate.   

I'm also getting used to the way Madam Boss doesn't appear to view toilet roll, as a priority in the loos. Call it a first world problem?

Below is a surveillance still of yours truly, whooping it up in front of the camera. During a quiet moment, I just couldn't stop myself from blowing one or three kisses toward the ever-glowing green light.

If the powers that be are unimpressed by my on screen antics, they haven't let on. Although when I went into work on Monday, I noticed that the bin - which is usually conveniently located near my "hot-desk" - had been MOVED  ...out  into the hallway. 

Was it the beginning of the end!? 



WorkingGirl Lets herself Go


Image: flickr

November 24, 2014

Working Girl: The Adventure Continues

So moving forward ....after consulting the Australian Tax Office, the (un)Fair Work Commission, "Fair Work Act”, a homeopath, astrologist Jonathan Cainer, and Googlepedia - I have, overnight, obtained an ABN. And I can now call myself an independent Madam Sole Trader. Sounds so thoroughly modern and entrepreneurial.

And it's all good!! apparently? (according to all of the above) ...that is until I trip on a banana skin left lying around the office – whereby my Lady Boss will be exempt from all liabilities. Some might merely call the latter risk factor, a miscellaneous first world problem. And at least I'm getting paid the lowest going rate.

Here's a snap of me and the HR guy in the lunch room ... breaking bread post-ABN submission. 

Boy was he thrilled when I finally gave him that pesky little ABN. And only then, did he get a twinkle in his eye, shake my hand ....and say in his endearing Mumbai accent, "Welcome aboard!!" Aboard what?

Actually, when the girl on reception, reveals that HR guy is single!! - my ears go on high alert. Since, as a mature dame of a certain age - landing a job has the same level of difficulty, as meeting Mr Right, becoming an Octomom - or squeezing into my swimming togs from the eighties. 

But whatEVER am I thinking?! For he could - if he's on the same salary sacrifice plan as me (and no doubt to make ends meet), be moonlighting as a human-trafficker, casual crack merchant, Avon lady, pimp ....Or all of the above? Could be perfect date material?

Meantime, I'm getting fully embedded into the workplace culture.  I strive to be all things to all people ....Even to that woman who shrieked hysterically at me last week. There was no need for that sweetie darling!


Madam CEO and HR Guy sent around a rather lengthy, all-staff email, telling everyone that she expects us to wear formal business attire.

My fellow contractor/entrepreneurs - who started work there around the same time as me, are grumbling about the enforced dress code, and other aspects of the CEO's unique brand of micromanagement. To be specific ...there's the issue of the surveillance camera that's positioned to record all activities within our workspace. Had they not pointed it out to me, I would never have noticed it. Awkward.

Moving upwards and onwards, I endeavour to waste no time, and make it a win-win situation, by (upon the hour every hour) practising some impromptu Marcel Marceau impersonations in front of it.

 Things could be worse.