At the time, it put the pair on a collision course. There was a minor argument after a match in Canberra in 2019. Mezzatesta slapped Mace across the face at the end of the discussion. According to witnesses, it was little more than a tap. However, some players and others in the dressing room saw it and it embarrassed Mace. He took exception to the slap, taking it so seriously that he referred it to the club’s disciplinary committee.
He will deny it now that Mezzatesta is his chief executive, but there was an intention to push Mezzatesta out. However, Mezzatesta is smart. He engaged a lawyer, who found that Mace had not followed the correct procedures for a disciplinary hearing and the matter did not proceed.
“I prefer to leave the brawling in the backyard,” Mace said. “We need to present a united front.”
Mezzatesta would not be drawn on exactly what happened that night in Canberra and efforts to have him front the disciplinary committee. “We have had plenty of disagreements and plenty of good times,” Mezzatesta said. “We have worked things out every time. This is a historical matter and I won’t be drawn on it. One thing I can deny is the involvement of lawyers.”
This week’s axing of Morris has done nothing to shine a light on the man pulling the strings in the background. Mace probably has the lowest profile of any club chairman in the game. So low, in fact, that he’s virtually invisible.
Colleagues say he is shy and even awkward in social situations, which is rare for someone in such a public position. But, in the boardroom, he is a different person. As one victim of his sharp tongue said: “He comes out swinging.”
Mace himself says his focus is all on improving the Sharks.
“My aim is to make sure this club has a future and that my kids have a team to follow,” he said. “We want to be in the position where we are making a $10 million profit.”
Mace has assembled a team of supporters on the board and dominates all the club’s operations. He has put himself on every committee that counts: remuneration, appointments, nominations, football liaison and investment. He controls them all. Nothing happens at the Sharks without the chairman’s go ahead.
He likes to set goals for senior people at the club, and if they fail to meet them, as Morris obviously did in his eyes, he has reason to move them on. But it happens privately and ruthlessly.
At the end of last year, Mace gave an address to members in which he said: “As a board we cannot expect the best from our management, staff and playing group if we don’t lead by example.
“Therefore, we intend to stand accountable to members and the wider Sharks community. For us to achieve this, we will need to increase our transparency and communication without compromising the business.”
Given Mace and the board let Morris believe he had a chance to keep his job as late as Monday, it is fair to say Mace has failed to meet his own targets on transparency and communication.
The chase for Craig Bellamy is a Mezzatesta project, but Mace denied one of the hottest rumours in the game: that half the money to pay Bellamy – the offer is about $1.6 million a year – was coming out of Mace’s own pocket. The suggestion was that Mace was going to pay $800,000. “I’m not allowed to do that,” he said.
But was that the plan?
“I’m not allowed to do that,” he said. “Dino is the one dealing with Bellamy.”
Bellamy did not rule out a move to the Sharks in a football manager role when I asked him, however it is thought he will remain in Melbourne for one more year.
Cam’s going nowhere
Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo is as honourable as they come in the coaching fraternity, and the thought of breaking a contract does not sit well with him. It’s why he is poised to say no to interest from the Sharks, despite his close friendship with incoming Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
Ciraldo also knows the young men he has helped develop at Penrith are coming into their prime and they are a good chance to collect a premiership in the coming years.
Johnson speaks out
When Cronulla players were addressed by management following the departure of Morris it was Shaun Johnson who stood up and spoke. He had serious concerns about the way the club dealt with his now former coach and made his feelings clear.
Cowboys roll out big guns to lure Reynolds
Adam Reynolds’ phone has been running hot, and one of the most influential figures popping up in his messages is none other than the greatest halfback of his generation, Johnathan Thurston.
“Yeah, I have been messaging Adam,” Thurston said. “I have been telling him how good it is up here [in Townsville] and why he should come [play for the Cowboys]. I’m hopeful. I don’t know whether I can influence him, but I know what it’s like living and playing up here and he has a big family full of young kids.
“Reynolds is off contract at the end of the season and Souths are only prepared to offer him a one-year contract extension with an option in the club’s favour for a second. The Rabbitohs skipper has refused the deal and has since been linked to a move to North Queensland.
“I don’t know why Souths don’t want him, but if I can sell this area and the club to him, I will. He could bring the best out of a lot of our players, including Val [Valentine Holmes] and Drinky [Scott Drinkwater] … I hope he listens, but I know what a big decision he has to make.”
Tom Trbojevic made a stunning return yesterday against the Gold Coast in Mudgee following his bathroom slip, latest hamstring injury and the now infamous race down Manly Corso with “Harry”.
For the record, “Turbo” claims privately that he beat Harry. Quite the achievement, as Harry boasts he can run 100 metres in less than 11 seconds and his “supporters” are heard in the now-viral video saying that Harry won.
Wests slide story
Michael Maguire is in a tenuous position at Wests Tigers. Officials at the club are openly discussing the prospect of letting him go.
However, given the club’s ongoing struggles – it is now 10 years since they played finals and 16 since they won the premiership – it is time they started to look seriously at the front office as well. The pressure will grow on chief executive Justin Pascoe if the Tigers can’t turn things around.
Junior the Eel deal
If anyone doubts Junior Paulo’s boxing ambitions they should consider this: Lucas Browne was due to have a session with Paulo on Thursday night. No one will say if they were going to spar, but you’d have to hope not for Brad Arthur’s sake, given the Eels played Canberra last night – just two days later.
Browne was forced to cancel on Paulo as he was invited to appear on The Late Show with Matty Johns to promote his heavyweight bout with Paul Gallen in Wollongong on Wednesday. It was the second time in two days that Browne had cancelled a sparring session. He was scheduled to face former Australian heavyweight champ Django Opelu in Brisbane on Tuesday, but pulled out on the morning of the session, to which media had been invited.
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Danny Weidler is a sport columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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We are in the home straight for settling government budgets. The bean-counters in both Canberra and Spring Street are finalising their blueprints for May 2021. There is every sign that they will take opposite approaches, despite the shared goal of revitalising their respective economic patches. The feds will try to rein in spending and cool the growth in the economy, which has rebounded faster than expected. Victoria will continue to spend with the “create jobs no matter how” approach.
It is another point of difference between the Coalition feds and the Labor state. The PM is discovering the limits of bluff and bluster as he tries to convince the voters that the vaccine rollout is anything other than a horror show.
Contrast his communication strategy (if there is anything strategic about it) with the Andrews daily press conference during lockdown. The ‘daily Dan’ showed the public the Premier was prepared to answer everyone’s questions, including from highly combative antagonists. His tone was apologetic and earnest. He accepted responsibility, acknowledged errors, sacked ministers and his own top bureaucrat, and emerged bruised but mostly intact.
Morrison is increasingly looking like the emperor with no clothes … has anyone in his inner circle dared tell him his contrived and staged media appearances are alienating and counterproductive? That his style is patronising, passive-aggressive at best and bullying at worst? Do any of his inner sanctum carry enough influence to say “PM you have become the problem”? I doubt it.
The voters are not stupid. The level of public engagement on COVID-19 is off the charts. Everyone knows who promised which vaccine and when – we can readily track what has not happened. Is it a “war” as he has claimed – or another political challenge to be managed for electoral advantage?
The state budget has been fine-tuned during the forced absence of the Premier, but his fingerprints will be all over it. Daniel Andrews has been the infrastructure Premier, but it is hard to see how they could commission more in the city in the next few years. There are opportunities in regional Victoria, but capacity constraints of both skilled workers and raw materials are already starting to bite.
If you want to create more jobs and continue to invest in rebuilding communal assets that COVID-19 has weakened, the next set of opportunities lies not with more overpasses and tunnels, but instead with timely investment in culture and the knowledge economy.
The arts and its diverse and fragmented communities have been amongst those hit the hardest by COVID-19. Musicians, writers, painters, potters, sculptors, actors, poets, illustrators, animators, photographers … the list is almost endless. Universities too are struggling yet their combined contribution to our communal wellbeing is immeasurable.
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Over the course of my leadership and work career, which spans more than 15 years, three continents, politics and businesses including Rocket Internet (The Iconic and Dalani), Bain & Co management consulting, venture capital and three of my own start-up ventures, I’ve been exposed to a wide range of workplace cultures.
At different stages, I have been a happy and an unhappy employee, as well as a great and an awful boss. So, with all of that in mind, here are some tips on how to create a happy and creative workplace culture.
1. Start with clarity
Define success upfront. Firstly, figure it out for yourself then communicate it clearly. It should be a conversation, ask your employee what they think great would look like, tell them your vision and together come up with a plan. Give them an opportunity to delight you.
2. Be generous with compliments and empathetic with areas to work on
Most of us need a ratio of many more compliments to criticisms to feel happy and valued at work. When we screw up (which let’s be real, we all do!) it’s rarely because we’re lazy or uncaring. It might be due to life outside of work, period pain, or broken technology…the reasons are vast and varied but they can impact an individual’s output. As a leader, it’s important to first assume there’s been a good reason for the mistake, then give the person a clear path to turn the situation around, with your guidance and support.
3. Cultivate creativity by starting with “yes”
This one is trickier than it sounds, especially if you’re a perfectionist like lots of us startup founders tend to be. Chances are your team will present a lot of ideas to you that you won’t love, but you need to tread carefully so as not to break the spirit of your talented employees. After much reflection, I have a few tactical tips on how to go about this.
Firstly, when someone comes to you with an idea you don’t like, consider that they might be right. Are they bringing a fresh perspective that is exactly what your business needs?
Secondly, see if you can find a way to let them implement their idea, even though you think it’s a bad idea, so they can learn the lesson themselves. Is there a way it can be done with limited negative impact? Can they test it with a subset of your audience? This way they can learn and move forward, rather than just feeling blocked and resentful.
Finally, if it’s an absolute clear no-go, be very encouraging but clear in your “no”. By clearly explaining your rationale your colleague will feel less dejected and is more likely to incorporate your feedback when presenting other ideas in the future.
4. Bring energy to your team…starting with yourself
You need to look after yourself, or as airlines say put your own oxygen mask on first. One-dimensional humans, who put all their energy and identity into one thing, are the most vulnerable to burnout. Cultivate your energy by exercising, seeing friends, indulging in your own quirks – whatever gives you energy is symbiotic with being a great boss.
Watch out for signs of burnout. These include struggling to sleep, needing to muster all your self-discipline to go to work in the morning or just becoming irritable. When this happens you need to take it seriously, take a timeout and if you’re not over it quickly, get professional help. There’s no faster way to burn out your team than being burnt out yourself.
Margot Balch, Co-founder and CEO, The One Two
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America may be best known for historical buildings such as the Empire State and White House, but you’d do well to admire some of its amazing contemporary architecture too.
RAY AND MARIA STATA CENTRE, BOSTON
With its wandering walls, random curves, colliding facades and tilting columns, this Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) building is as disorienting as a funfair house, and looks as if it’s about to collapse. The deconstructivist design by Frank Gehry mixes brick, glass, metal and paintwork, so the eye never really settles in one place. One critic called the building’s whimsical outline a “crinkled sculpture”. See web.mit.edu
CENTRAL LIBRARY, SEATTLE
Famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is responsible for this soaring box of steel and glass, with its oddly-angled facades and apparently floating platforms. Its lattice-like exterior throws bands of light across the interior, and floors flow upwards in a spiral that follows the Dewey Decimal System. Like much contemporary architecture it has been controversial, alternatively described as exhilarating and innovative by some, oppressive and depressing by others. See spl.org
FAENA FORUM, MIAMI
There’s lots of striking art deco and modern architecture in Miami, but there’s no overlooking this stunner, also by Rem Koolhaas, just a block from Miami Beach. The building for public events references both opera houses and ancient Roman forums. Half is wedge-shaped, half is curved, and the whole appears to be wrapped up in bands of white, thanks to the irregular arrangement and shapes of its windows. See faena.com
US AIR FORCE CADET CHAPEL, EL PASO
Colorado might be famous for its landscapes, but the state’s most visited man-made attraction is this structure of glass, steel and aluminium. Built in 1962 and now considered a classic of modernist architecture, it features a row of 17 spires linked by tetrahedrons of glass. The interior of stained glass, which becomes progressively lighter towards the altar, is even more striking. See usafa.edu
AQUA TOWER, CHICAGO
This looks like the ghost of a building, or a tower built from ice that’s about to melt and collapse, and at some angles it seems chunks of the façade have already fallen off. Its architect Jeanne Gang was inspired by Great Lakes limestone architecture. The rippling, sinuous residential skyscraper is made from a series of irregular concrete floors, with balconies also contributing to the building’s wave-like, sculptural appearance. See allianz-arena.com
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DALI MUSEUM, ST PETERSBURG
If you’re building a museum devoted to surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali then it had better be quirky. This Florida building rises to the occasion, with globular glass protrusions known as Enigma and Igloo erupting from its concrete façade, as if the building is slowly being swallowed by an alien blob. The soaring glass entrance hall features a spiral staircase that could be from a Dali painting. See thedali.org
JEPPESEN TERMINAL, DENVER
Denver airport’s Jeppesen Terminal features pitched roofs that recall the peaks of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, or perhaps early settler wagons or native tepees – and they certainly prove airports don’t have to be boring. The tent-like roofs are made from wafer-thin fibreglass coated with Teflon, thin enough to let in light. The terminal is often cited as having one of the best architectural designs of any American building. See flydenver.com
PEROT MUSEUM, DALLAS
This science museum is itself an exhibition of cutting-edge sustainable technology and futuristic architecture. It features a large, split cube that appears to float above a multi-storey plinth covered in greenery, which captures most of the building’s solar and water needs. A glass oblong containing escalators is attached, seemingly precariously, to the exterior. Like many great contemporary buildings, it looks ugly from some angles, sublime from others. See perotmuseum.org
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL, LOS ANGELES
Fans of architect Frank Gehry will recognise his style in this building’s sweeping metallic surfaces, some angled, some undulating, and all resulting in a constantly changing profile as the sun casts shadows throughout the day. The form is meant to represent musical movement. Attend a concert here by the Los Angeles Philharmonic if you can; the acoustics are as wonderful as the building itself. See laphil.com
ONE WORLD TRADE CENTRE, NEW YORK
This skyscraper on the site of the Twin Towers destroyed during the 9/11 attacks is a symbolic 1776 feet (541 metres), the date of American independence, and has a striking façade of angled, mirrored glass tapering towards the summit in an echo of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. The world’s fastest lifts bring you to the 102-storey observation deck in 47 seconds. See oneworldobservatory.com
The writer travelled both as a guest of numerous tourism offices and at his own expense.
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Housing a plastics company and trading centre, this wheel-like building looks as if it’s about to roll into the muddy Pearl River. It’s the world’s tallest circular building and, unlike many others, its central hole is open to the air. Some compare it to ancient jade discs and Chinese coins, others note river reflections produce the lucky number eight. It must be working: $38 billion of plastics are traded here annually. See gz.gov.cn
OLYMPIC GREEN, BEIJING
Relive the spirit of the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a visit to Olympic Green, where you get a double whammy of whacky architecture. The National Stadium (aka Bird’s Nest) looks as if it was built by crazed storks, while the eye-popping National Aquatics Centre (aka Water Cube) appears to be covered in bubble wrap. It now houses a water theme park where you can swim beneath giant suspended jellyfish. See n-s.cn and water-cube.com
TEAPOT BUILDING, WUXI
Wuxi is a major tourist town and ancient trading port on the lower Yangtze near Shanghai, but particularly known to the Chinese as a source of red clay teapots. What better shape, therefore, than a 15th-century teapot for the 10-storey edifice housing the tourist information office? The building, which was funded by a local billionaire, is made from steel covered in aluminium sheets and stained glass, and can rotate 360 degrees. See wuxi.gov.cn
CCTV HEADQUARTERS, BEIJING
This 44-storey building – is it one building bent over, or two joined together? – resembles a strange gateway or Mobius strip or, according to detractors, a giant pair of boxer shorts. Its radical shape and huge cantilever were a huge structural challenge considering its location in an earthquake zone. It looks best at night when illuminated in appealing, somewhat muted colours, over which its structural black tubing zigzags. See cctv.com
STARSHIP ENTERPRISE, CHANGLE
You probably have to see this building from the air to appreciate it looks just like the USS Enterprise, even if it’s officially known as the Sunny Heaven Building. Built by a Star Trek fan with far too much money in order to house his gaming company, the homage stops in the interior, which is a regular office building. It’s the only officially licensed Star Trek building in the world. See netdragon.com
HOT SPRING RESORT, HUZHOU
Designed by the appropriately named MAD Architects, this Sheraton hotel rises beside Taihu Lake, a two-hour drive from Shanghai, like a giant doughnut, though it’s actually supposed to reference classical humpback bridges. At night, LED lights on its exterior provide ever-changing, multi-coloured patterns that make the hotel glow and provide marvellous reflections in the lake water. The resort comprises suites, villas and a spa village served by hot springs. See starwoodhotels.com
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ALIEN EGG, BEIJING
It’s not hard to see why the National Centre for Performing Arts is nicknamed “the Giant Egg”, or as Beijingers call it, “Alien Egg”, though it’s a flattened egg, perhaps more resembling a water droplet. The giant ovoid is covered in titanium on one half and glass on the other, and rises out of an artificial lake that creates near-perfect reflections, best appreciated at night under spotlights. It’s reached via an underwater corridor with glass ceilings that provide rippling light. See chncpa.org
ORDOS MUSEUM, KANGBASHI
This brand-new museum in Inner Mongolia is said to be inspired by the Gobi Desert, though the Gobi Desert doesn’t appear to have any other huge polished metal blobs lying about. The facade is covered in metal louvres, dispensing with the need for windows and reflecting the surroundings so that the blob sometimes seems to merge into the landscape. The light-filled interior has sinuous shapes and feels like walking through an Arizona canyon. See zxm.nmgtour.gov.cn
LOTUS BUILDING, WUJIN
We have Aussie architects Studio 505 to thank for one of China’s most beautiful weird buildings, a series of three lotus blossoms of graded pinks and purples and an interior as flooded with light and colour as a contemporary cathedral. The complex houses municipal buildings and a conference centre, some of it partly hidden beneath the lake. Changing facade colours make this a popular local spot for an evening stroll. See cnto.org
PIANO-AND-VIOLIN BUILDING, HUAINAN
Now that you think about it, what better place for a rehearsal and performance space for music students than a couple of giant musical instruments? The glass violin forms the atrium and houses stairs and escalators, while the piano body hides the useful parts of the building. There’s a roof terrace under the open lid. The music students have gone, sadly, and this is now a showroom for city development plans. Whatever next? See ah.gov.cn
Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of tourism offices and at his own expense.
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The culture inside Australia’s banks has not improved in the two years since an overhaul of the scandal-prone sector was recommended by a royal commission, employees say.
In focus groups conducted for the Finance Sector Union, bank workers rejected statements from the Australian Banking Association’s chief executive, Anna Bligh, that employees were no longer being paid based on hitting sales benchmarks.
“If anything since the RC things have just gotten worse,” one worker said during the focus group sessions, a report of which has been obtained by Guardian Australia.
“The banks think that no one is watching. Since the royal commission they’re just slipping things back in and it’s now worse than ever.”
While some workers said things were slightly better, most condemned bank bosses for continuing to run a sales-oriented culture.
A retail bank worker for one of the big four banks, who spoke to Guardian Australia separately, said the lure of bonuses for making sales, which were banned as a result of the royal commission, had been replaced by the fear of being sacked if targets were not met.
“They used to offer us a carrot, now they threaten us with a stick,” the worker said.
“They don’t call them sales anymore, they call them different things like ‘customer requirements met’. Frontline staff are always terrified of being performance managed out the door.”
The FSU’s focus group material was prepared by the union as part of a submission to a review of the ABA’s own program to reform retail banking pay.
In 2016, as part of its efforts to fend off a royal commission, the ABA commissioned former senior public servant Stephen Sedgwick to conduct the review.
Sedgwick’s final report, released in April 2017, recommended severing the direct link between sales and pay and replacing it with what the industry calls a “balanced scorecard”, where financial results are just one component that goes into determining pay.
While his review was not enough to stop the royal commission taking place in 2018, commissioner Kenneth Hayne endorsed it in his final report, saying the industry should “implement fully the recommendations of the Sedgwick review”.
Sedgwick is currently conducting a review of the implementation of his report. As part of this process he has invited submissions from industry participants, including the FSU.
However, the FSU national secretary, Julia Angrisano, said the changes had not addressed a culture of greed in the banking industry because they only affected frontline workers and bosses were still earning bonuses based on financial targets.
“If we don’t change the way pay is structured from the very top, nothing will change,” she told Guardian Australia.
She said branch workers such as tellers were trying to sell products “because they were getting smashed from above”.
The change from explicit sales targets to balanced scorecards had not reduced the pressure to sell, she said.
“Before everyone knew what it was, it was a sales target.
“Now there’s all this trickery.”
In the FSU’s focus groups, rank-and-file workers also raised concerns about the continued existence of leaderboards to track sales, which Sedgwick criticised.
Leaderboards should only be used if they were “consistent with the intention to de-emphasise sales relative to ethical behaviour and customer outcomes”, he said in his 2017 report.
But workers in the FSU focus groups said leaderboards were still rife and still focused on sales.
“Leader boards still 100% exist,” one worker said. “I’ve seen them with my own eyes. They are lying through their teeth when they say they don’t have leader boards.”
Workers also raised concerns that banks expected them to continue to hit sales targets during last year’s coronavirus shutdown.
The bank employee who spoke to Guardian Australia said that despite a big turnover in executive management since the royal commission, bank bosses were still not listening to rank-and-file staff.
“They all say we’re going to clean up the culture, yeah right. Nothing has changed.”
An ABA spokesman said that banks were “committed to improving culture and remuneration arrangements”.
“The current Sedgwick review is an important opportunity to take stock of the progress made so far,” he said.
“In recent months, Prof Sedgwick has been conducting staff surveys to inform his review. He’s also been meeting with the Finance Sector Union and regulators before delivering his final report.”
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It was a cause for celebration when 30-year-old Kate Ellis was appointed as the youngest Australian to ever become a federal minister. But within 18 months things had turned ugly and her career was on the line.
Former Labor MP Kate Ellis has gathered accounts of a large number of female politicians
Former Liberal MP Julia Banks says the workplace culture in Parliament House is the “most unsafe in Australia”
Ms Ellis expects there are “hundreds more stories” of misogyny
In November 2009 she found herself in the “ridiculous” position of telling a national newspaper editor, “I promise I’ve never even kissed him,” as she pleaded for her political life.
“I still cringe when I think how pathetic it was that I was begging,” she says.
She says weaponised gossip in Parliament House and a rumour that she and her female chief of staff were both having a sexual relationship with a male adviser in their office “was everywhere”.
A major newspaper was going to print the story that the alleged love triangle was “destabilising” the government.
If published, she knew it would be career ending. “I would be labelled as a slut and as someone who isn’t really up for the job,” Ms Ellis tells Australian Story.
Not only was there “zero” truth to the rumour, Ms Ellis also says the inside knowledge of the workings of her office meant the story could only have originated from within her own party. “The only reason was to undermine me,” she says.
The pleas worked and the newspaper editor agreed not to publish, but there was no cause for celebration knowing: “Someone was actively fabricating a story to make sure that it looked like I was some flippant floozy who wasn’t really serious about the job that I’d been promoted to do.”
During her tenure as a minister, Ms Ellis was credited with introducing national quality standards for childcare and finalising the national plan to end violence against women and children. But she says throughout her career she and her female colleagues faced harassment, sexual slurs and destructive gossip designed to stop them being politically effective.
Now they’ve had enough.
It wasn’t until Ms Ellis left politics in 2019 that she realised how “toxic” the culture in Parliament House had been.
“It’s really strange how when you leave the parliament and re-enter normal life that you slowly start to realise how the rest of the world operates,” she says.
“Things that I used to accept were part of the job are really not OK.”.
She decided to reach out to other women — MPs and staffers across the political spectrum — to compare notes, and what came to light “would horrify the public”.
The stories tell a tale of systemic inequality, sexism, casual misogyny and sexual harassment.
“Focus on physical appearance is much greater for women, focus on their private lives, issues around motherhood, slut-shaming, personal attacks, rumours and gossip used to undermine women in a way men don’t have to face to the same extent in parliament,” Ms Ellis says.
“It makes it harder for you to actually focus on doing your job. There’s this casual misogyny that shows up in a whole range of ways.
“People are rewarded in politics for bad behaviour. If you undermine someone, then you’re more likely to be promoted.”
‘How many blokes have you f***ed’
Ms Ellis was 27 when she was first elected to parliament in the 2004 federal election. In 2007 she eclipsed Paul Keating’s achievement, becoming the youngest Australian government minister when then-prime minister Kevin Rudd appointed her minister for youth and minister for sport.
“I know that would have put a lot of noses out of joint and so it’s probably no surprise that there were people who wanted to undermine me,” Ms Ellis says.
“We just had this great election result which meant that we had a backbench brimming with people with ambition.
“You can only get promoted when there’s a vacancy and some people might think it helps to hurry along those vacancies.”
Over the course of her 15 years in parliament, she would take on the ministries of early childhood education, sport and the status of women, among others.
She says she never spoke to other women about the sexism she was facing.
“You don’t want to have a focus on, ‘Hey, do you know who thinks I’m a stupid bimbo? Who thinks I’ve slept with half the parliament? Do you know who is spreading rumours that I was caught naked in the prayer room?'” she says.
But gendered stereotyping and gibes were a constant throughout her political life, beginning from day one.
“I’d only been an MP for a couple of weeks and we were out for drinks and this Liberal staffer quite aggressively just said, ‘Kate, the only thing anyone wants to know about you is just how many blokes you f***ed in order to get into parliament.’
Just the fact that he came up and said that to my face when I was an elected MP and he was a staff member, that he still had the confidence to do that,” she says.
When she first came to politics, Ellis says most of the MPs were men, most of the senior staff were men, and all of the factional powerbrokers were men.
“I remember being a young staff member and being hit on by MPs,” she says. “That wasn’t uncommon.”
“But I know of much worse stories. Certainly when I was a staffer and a volunteer, I saw a lot of things but I also heard allegations of what I’d call serious sexual assault and misconduct from an elected Labor MP.
“This is something that isn’t new. We’ve seen a number of stories recently, but I suspect that there are hundreds and hundreds more.”
Now that Ms Ellis has left politics and “taken off her armour”, she is ready to add to the national conversation around women in Canberra by penning the stories of high-profile current and former female politicians in a new book, Sex, Lies and Question Time.
“I just wasn’t quite sure what I was going to hear,” Ms Ellis says. “Every conversation just started to build this picture that there is something seriously wrong in Parliament House.”
Former prime minister Julia Gillard spoke to Ms Ellis about her arrival in parliament and her naivety in thinking that it would quickly develop into a place of gender equality.
“I was a student at Adelaide University when I first woke to feminism, and if you’d said to me then, ‘When is there going to be a gender-equal world?’ I would have said, ‘Oh, you know, 10, 15 years’ time, no problems,’ but I was wrong about that,” Ms Gillard says.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was appalled by the treatment of Ms Gillard but was herself caught in the crossfire of sexual slurs and sledging.
“It’s like you can’t win either way. There’s no nice balance. Some days you’re a bimbo and other days you’re a bitch,” she says.
Ms Ellis’s Australian Story coincides with a wave of discontent about the treatment of women in politics, triggered by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleges she was raped by a colleague inside then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’s office two years ago.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised to her for how the matter was handled, and announced a series of inquiries into the adequacy of support measures for women in the building, as well as how to improve the broader culture.
Once the former staffer broke her silence, stories of abuse and bad behaviour started pouring out of the national capital. Perhaps the most shocking surfaced last week when a federal Liberal staffer was sacked for allegedly masturbating on a female MP’s desk.
Minister for Science Industry and Technology Karen Andrews told Australian Story the events of the last few weeks were “absolutely the worst I have seen here”.
“We are collectively a disappointment to the people in Australia, and that’s appalling,” she says.
“Things that I would never have imagined would have would have gone on in this building are now being played out in national media.”
Changing an entrenched and destructive culture in a workplace where women are still a significant minority isn’t simple. But Ms Ellis believes silence is no longer an option.
“I’ve long said that no boys’ club has ever voluntarily dismantled themselves. That’s just not going to happen,” Ms Ellis says.
“But women are standing up, we’re going to call it out and we’re going to demand change. And I want to be a part of that.”
When she started writing her book six months ago, Ms Ellis says she thought it would be “controversial to suggest there might be cultural issues” within Parliament House.
“I now share the sense of rage that women across Australia have,” she said in a recent tweet.
“I know a lot of us feel at the moment that we want to burn the place down, but if that sense changes to we want to take over the place then I hope that women will be able to learn from the experiences of those who’ve gone before.”
Here are the stories of current and former female politicians, in their own words.
Senator, Greens 2008-current
I ran in the 2007 election. I was 25 at the time and had an 18-month-old baby on my hip
I was shocked at the aggression in the parliament itself. I was genuinely confronted by the deep tribalism in that building.
You’re walking into parliament every day and needing to prepare for sexist slurs that will be thrown across the chamber. It is designed to both silence and shame women at the same time. It takes a lot of energy to put your armour on, you’re going to battle every day.
If we drew the curtains back even further I think the public would be horrified.
I’ve had names of men that it was rumoured that I slept with whispered to me as they walk past me in the chamber, as we’re sitting down to vote. All those things that are designed as mind warfare.
I became anxious of standing on my feet, particularly in Question Time. We’d been debating a motion in relation to violence against women in the Senate chamber and Senator [David] Leyonhjelm yelled across at me in the chamber, ‘You should stop shagging men, Sarah.’ I was quite shocked. I walked over to him and I said quietly, ‘What did you just say to me?’ And he confirmed that he had said this. I told him he was a creep. And he told me to f*** off.
For years I thought it would be weak if I responded, if I allowed anyone to know that this was happening to me. I asked him publicly in the chamber for an apology. He refused, went on national television, national radio and slandered me even further. I decided I had to take him to court. And I won.
The amazing thing is that calling it out and naming it is taking all the power away from the bullies. I feel like I’m 100 times stronger than I ever was.
Former member for Chisholm
I entered parliament relatively late in life. I was in my 50s and I had behind me a career in the legal and corporate sector. I was immediately struck by the fact that it reminded me of when I first entered the workforce in the late 80s in terms of its attitudes to women.
It is very much an environment that is frozen in time. You go into there and think, ‘Is this really happening?’ I really believe our federal Parliament House is the most unsafe workplace culture in our country. And not only do women have nowhere to go to report misconduct, but they are subject to misconduct every day. I’m less talking about the MPs, I’m talking about the 5,000 other staff that are there.
When I announced I wasn’t going to recontest, I also called out the entrenched anti-women culture. It reached peak toxicity and I thought, ‘I’m going to exit. And if I’m going to exit this place it is going to be on my terms.’ I wasn’t going to limp out.
That was just the beginning of a three-month period of reprisals, retribution, abuse. This behaviour in Parliament House is so endemic and entrenched that men and women can often be blind to it.
If only our leaders would take accountability, rather than hoping that an issue would go away, if they introduced structures that would address this problem, then that is what gives me hope.
Federal Member for McPherson
My early days here were a real eye-opener in terms of the way that parliament operated, but also in terms of the environment in which I was working. I started my working life as an engineer. And you were always treated on the basis of whether or not you could do the job.
It’s very adversarial. There is a lot of constant low-level stuff — you just put up with it day after day. It’s the remarks about how you look, how you speak, how you present yourself. Comments that are really just unacceptable to anyone in any environment, let alone in the national parliament.
And that’s what I’d really like to see change. The parliament should reflect the Australian population, and that means that we need people with a wide range of experience, different ages, different genders.
The circumstances in which we find ourselves cannot continue. We are collectively a disappointment to the people in Australia.
Opposition Minister for Education and Women
I came in 1998 with a big group of women. I think you learn pretty early on that not all your enemies are on the other side of politics, and you need to be able to deal with that.
I think one of the reasons that female parliamentarians aren’t focused on calling out sexism on our own behalf is we think, ‘Well, you know, we’ve got power, we’ve got a voice. Our focus isn’t and can’t be on ourselves. Our focus has to be on the people that we’re serving.’
What does sexism look like in parliament today? It looks like being spoken over, it looks like having your ideas repeated back to you like they’re somehow original. It looks like an assumption that if you’re not aggressive in the same way as a bloke would be aggressive in the same circumstance that you are somehow letting down the team. A lot of it is unconscious. I think there’s a generation of men who don’t even realise that they’re doing it.
I try and call gossip out as soon as I hear about it or it spreads like a cancer. The simple truth is members of parliament staff have very few protections.
Natasha Stott Despoja
Australian Democrats 1995-2007
When I first started working in federal parliament I was relatively young, and clearly in a very male-dominated environment.
I look back and I remember the ire of men, be they politicians or others, who were upset if you wouldn’t go out with them. There’s one married MP who pursued me as a staffer and then bullied me as a senator.
In my day you were called “princess” or “precious” when you complained about bad behaviour of male colleagues or their staff members or indeed members of parliament.
It wasn’t so much a culture of silence, it was a culture of silencing women who complained.
When it comes to our nation’s parliament, I want our leaders to play a leadership role. This has to be top-down and bottom-up, but particularly it has to be led by the people in whom we give power.
Watch Australian Story’s Chamber of Silence on iview andYouTube.
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Melbourne has a deserved reputation for artisanal subculture, cafe society and somewhat self-conscious hipsterism, but when I heard about Flour Market – “the seasonal, specialty, artisan and underground bake sale” – my mind quickly conjured a flour-dusted Ned Ludd hurling choux into the machines, and conspiratorial tarts with Morse-coded messages arranged in their raisins.
I obviously had to go, both to satisfy cultural curiosity as well as instant appetite for experimental sweet and savoury treats.
Flour Market was started by four friends and now takes place four times a year. The Melbourne organisers brought a travelling Flour Market to Sydney last year and, with sold-out, queues-around-the-block results, rumours are they’ll be doing so again in February.
A Melbourne Flour Market was on last weekend at Collingwood town hall. It’s less a breaded cabal than a sugary warehouse party to celebrate the enthusiasm of an artisanal community for inventing new products and reinventing old ones. The bakers assemble a circle of stalls around the hall perimeter early, with “early bird” pre-booked customers admitted at 8.30am and doors opened to the public for a $2 entry at 9am. The Flour Market lasts as long as it has goods left to sell; with a crowd of a hundred punters lined up when I arrived before 8am to shoot photos, it was unsurprising when not a cream puff was left out by midday. Typically, a single stall shifts 900 items each time the event’s held. Queues out of the building for “hot” items are usual.
The bakers are a fascinating mix of creators, with diverse experiences of the baking life. Some are attached to premises – not only bakeries but in residence within cafes, takeaways and restaurants. Others are suppliers to existing restaurants and franchises, running distribution businesses from their cars. Others still are home bakers using Flour Market as a supportive environment to test products and make contacts for a foray into professional opportunity. It’s like a fringe festival of flour.
Linh Dang is in this last group. She’s 25 and has been baking since she left school. She’s preparing to launch her own baking brand, Amabelle, and she brings her signature wares to the Flour Market: lemon meringue pies adorned with edible flowers, a “Not a Carrot” cake that looks like a carrot in soil but is actually a banana and chocolate confection, and a remarkable salted caramel tart decorated with popcorn and gold leaf.
She’s looking for the kind of niche buyers who have been found by Morgan Hipworth, a stallholder a couple of tables down now known as Melbourne’s Doughnut King. Morgan may only be 14 but he’s been channelling his passion for avant-garde doughnuttery into a thriving small business that’s now supplying numerous Melbourne cafes. He is showcasing a white chocolate, rose petal and pistachio doughnut alongside his existing lines at Flour Market. His signature is a plastic syringe filled with addable jam stabbed into the heart of each dough ball.
Bistro Morgan is a hot stall at Flour Market and it’s his queues that are spilling out the door when I attend. He tells me that his passion for baking was the discovery that his creations “made people really happy”. It’s a sentiment shared by the bakers I talk to for why they’ve been up since 1am baking, why they’re often in bed by 8pm, why their lives revolve around ovens, car deliveries and lost weekends. Received happiness is perhaps why they’re so supportive of one another, and recommend each other’s goods – conspicuously, no one is jealous of young Morgan, despite his queues and reputation; they’re cheering him on.
It’s also perhaps why the bakers are able to mobilise such devoted labour from their supporters at Flour Market and beyond. While Morgan’s mother shifts doughnuts at the market, his father is out doing delivery rounds. Linh Dang’s Flour Market staff are a bustling gaggle of her friends, while Simone Clark, the baker from from Butterbing, has her partner, Trevor, on the table. Clark was a designer who left her desk job to bake full-time and her brownie cookie-sandwiches with cream filling have cult status among the customers of the cafes they supply. “I know this cake!” I blurt when I meet her. Butterbing’s love story – with careers given up and happiness found – is a popular flavour at the market.
Baker’s wife Toula, who’s selling her partner’s vanilla-slice doughnuts and infamously tasty cinnamon scrolls for the Candied Bakery tells me she fell in love with him for his baking. After a bite of my cinnamon scroll, I fall in love with him, too.
It’s a heady morning – not least for the cake fans who queue, taste, pile their trays with treats and spend the afternoon hashtagging photos of their finds on Instagram with #flourmarket before scoffing the lot.
Melbourne presumably also has an artisanal wellness circuit of kale pushers and quinoa gurus but it’s hard to beat the happy feeling provided spiritually and materially by the joyous bakers at an underground baking festival.
As I finished my day at Flour Market, I experienced at least one radical miracle. I ate every scrap of a 1,000-calorie beef pie without feeling guilty at all.
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If there’s one thing that business leaders should have learned about 2020 it’s that without a vibrant culture comprised of highly emotionally intelligent people who care about what the organisation is trying to achieve, it’s impossible to deliver anything.
They cannot simply wait for their culture to sort itself out or walk past the kind of behaviour that undermines psychological safety. It is their job to provide the time and money for employees to define the culture they need to be successful and then to role model this themselves, in plain sight.
Many business leaders still put culture in the “too hard” basket, when the reality is that a few simple tweaks can transform the way that work gets done.
Here are four examples that any business leader can encourage:
1. Hold a “bureaucracy-busting day”
This is something that Google encourages across their teams to ensure that the organisation never mires itself in inefficient ways of working. It requires that all departments spend a day looking at the way that they work and asking themselves, “Is there a better way that we can do this?” Agility is something that every CEO long to achieve, yet what gets in the way of it is the mindset of people and needless process or hierarchy. Continually challenge the way things get done rather than waiting for them to break.
2. Stop holding 30- or 60-minute meetings
Yes, meetings can be an important structure for decision-making and progress evaluation however, when the organisation has become lazy about how they are run, hasn’t given any thought to the amount of time actually required to make a decision or else and has decided to be driven by the calendar application instead then the importance is lost. Change the timings to 20 and 40 minutes (in the first instance) and being more disciplined around the way that they’re run to give employees more productive time back in their days.
3. Hold regular “chat with the chief” sessions
In one organisation that I worked with last year the CEO wanted to improve his visibility, so we implemented monthly “chat with the chief” sessions. Anyone could book in and the numbers were limited so that everyone got an equal amount of facetime and opportunity to ask questions. The CEO shouted coffees and biscuits and talked openly about the organisation, its culture, goals, challenges, risk and opportunities. During the pandemic these moved online and demonstrated a more vulnerable side of his nature (his cat made a regular appearance). The CEO trust score went up and employees appreciated the opportunity to hear undiluted messages. Open up your calendar and listen regularly.
4. Hold an “honesty half hour” with your team
As a former senior manager myself courageous conversations were often a challenge. So in order to improve our ability to do this crucial skill well we introduced Honesty Half Hour sessions. These ‘Triple-H’ meetings were purely centred around providing feedback to each other on the things that we could individually improve. Netflix do something similar and CEO Reed Hastings said in his book No Rules Rules, “At Netflix it’s tantamount to being disloyal to the company if you fail to speak up when you disagree with a colleague or have feedback that could be helpful”. Get better at being honest to drive personal and organisational growth.
Of course, these things won’t ever replace taking the time to formally define a culture, however, they are all things that any CEO can do to create positive micro-experiences within a culture to lift engagement from which results are achieved.
Colin D Ellis, project management & culture change expert and author of “Culture Hacks: 26 Ideas to Transform the Way You Work”
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Former Hockeyroos star Anna Flanagan has alleged a former staff member of the Australian national team brashly called her “a s***”.
Former Hockeyroos star Anna Flanagan has alleged a former staff member of the Australian national team called her “a slut” after she shared a photo of herself on social media.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the 29-year-old detailed how she and female teammates were allegedly mistreated while representing their country.
The alleged incident happened early in Flanagan’s professional career after she posted an image of herself in the green and gold kit.
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Flanagan claims a female staff member approached her the following day, shaming her for the photo.
“She told me I looked like a slut, because part of my sports bra was showing,” Flanagan told The Daily Telegraph.
“That was from a member of the coaching staff. That was just one of the many inappropriate comments that were said to me.
“There were so many other things and not just to me. Girls were constantly being told they were going to get kicked in the c***”
According to the report, Flanagan later complained about the incident to Hockey Australia but claims no action was taken.
Hockey Australia declined to comment when approached by NewsCorp on Friday evening.
The Canberra athlete represented Australia 171 times, winning gold medals at two Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014. She was named World Young Player of the Year in 2013.
The accusations come after Hockey Australia launched an independent inquiry into “toxic” and “bullying” culture within the women’s national program.
Hockey Australia released the review’s findings on Thursday, which “broadly found a dysfunctional culture within the program”.
There have been ongoing allegations of homophobic behaviour, bullying, and body shaming within the Hockeyroos set-up since late last year.
The review included input from current and former players dating back to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. More than 100 people, including Flanagan, participated in the review.
Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin resigned from his position on Wednesday evening, while assistant coach Steph Andrews and selector Sharon Buchanan have also left the program.
Two months earlier, high performance director Toni Cumpston quit after losing the confidence of the Hockey Australia Board.
Hockey Australia chief executive Matt Favier told AAP on Thursday: “There was nothing in the review that raised red flags around any suggestion of … homophobic sentiment towards players.
“Part of the reason that HA initiated the review in the first instance was the suggestion of bullying, and there was no case of any staff-to-player bullying.
“There is a suggestion that (between players) there were some incidents – the word bullying wouldn’t be the correct definition, but certainly some tensions between players from time to time.
“Perhaps intimidation might be closer to the truth. But it was reported as isolated incidents, not as any systemic matters.”
Read the The Daily Telegraph’s full report on Anna Flanagan’s allegations
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