I’m sick of running the gauntlet of smiling harassers

The smiling gauntlet

How has it come to this? How has the natural human reaction to be polite been turned against us as a ruthless selling ploy?

I guess I should be thankful I’m not naturally a people person, but I still feel a small pang of guilt or embarrassment every time I decline to be stopped by the handsome young man trying to “just ask a quick question” before he plies me with his employer’s over-priced hand moisturiser.

Or when I turn away the cute Telstra guy who appears on my doorstep on a Sunday afternoon trying to sell me his employer’s latest broadband package.

Or when I decline to take up the latest fabulous accommodation package from the friendly woman on my mobile who amazingly doesn’t stop for breath during her sales pitch.

These selling tactics rely on us being too polite to ignore them or brush them away, and too guilty to buy nothing once they have invested time and energy in the exchange.

It has now come to the point that we can no longer pop down to the local store for a loaf of bread, take a leisurely stroll through our favourite shopping mall or even open our front door without having to run the gauntlet of these smiling harassers.

I’m sick of feeling guilty when I am forced to engage with these pan-handlers. Now I feel manipulated by the charming, smiling, waving, hand-proffering young people who have been trained not to take no for an answer and to persevere with salutations and questions and dazzling smiles.

The irony of course is that I’m a profligate spender. Catch my attention in a way that lets me make up my own mind in my own time and I’ll open my wallet with surprising speed.  I’m happy to sponsor a child’s education through the Smith Family, drop a twenty on an Anzac or Legacy badge, spend $50 on a wonderful smelling candle or $300 on the right face cream.  But I do all these things because they make me feel good either directly or indirectly.  None of these expenditures were leveraged through guilt.

It’s time we all stood up to this selling tactic and just said no – tell them directly, complain to the shopping centre or mall manager and broadcast your rejection as loudly and widely as you can.  I’ve already started and I hope you will join me.

Postscript: Cornucopia Consulting is the company that trains these harassers. Here is the email address that you can use to lodge your personal complaint:enquiries@cornucopia.com.au

Surprise, surprise, The Australian censors criticism of faux Jenkins expose

Yesterday and today, The Australian carried a story attributed to “staff reporters” claiming that Speaker Harry Jenkins button-holed the PM in the Parliamentary coffee shop Aussies. A photo taken on a mobile phone was proffered as proof. I witnessed this exchange and it was nothing of the sort. The taking of the photo was an invasion of privacy and Parliament House protocol. The fact that the journalist in question was not prepared to put her name to the story could be taken as acknowledgement of these facts.

I lodged the following comment at the end of the article as is now customary, but it has not been printed. In fact, the option to comment on the article has been removed altogether. Here it is for you to read and consider:

I’m pretty appalled at this story. Mostly because I witnessed the so-called “button-holing” by Jenkins, which was nothing more than a jovial aside. I also saw the Australian’s journalist take a picture of the exchange on their mobile phone, which is contrary to Parliament House privacy rules. It was pure speculation, if not outright fabrication, to suggest that Jenkins was reduced to discussing this matter with the PM in public, in a coffee shop. I’m a supporter of the Australian, but this was a shocking attempt at gotcha journalism.

A kinder, gentler legislative log-jam

It’s no secret that I’m concerned about a small number of people, who garnered only a small proportion of the total vote, deciding who should form the next government of Australia. I can nevertheless understand the optimism vested in this political arrangement to deliver a kinder, gentler, more transparent, more accountable government.

It may well do so. But as a former lobbyist who has worked with governments dating back to the Hawke years, I can see a huge legislative log-jam looming in both houses of federal parliament, which will be bad for the economy and the community.

In the House of Representatives, where just one vote can change the fortune of any piece of legislation, there are four members who have reserved the right to vote on each Bill depending upon its individual merits.

No-one should underestimate what this means. There are literally hundreds of Bills that pass through parliament every year. Many are complex and require a particular policy expertise to decipher. Even if the Independents have secured the promise of additional staff from Prime Minister Gillard, they will be overwhelmed with the amount of detail they will need to master to judge each Bill on its merits, let alone the research needed to genuinely participate in parliamentary committees.

This means that one of two things will happen. It’s likely that in the spirit of transparency and consultancy the Indies will want to study every Bill closely and consult with all stakeholders. It’s also possible that the Indies will eventually shift their sights to pet issues and let the others fall into abeyance. Either way, this will inevitably slow down the legislative program, particularly for those Bills that aren’t related to “agreed” actions or supply. Most people aren’t aware of the scores of unsexy regulatory and policy reforms that languish on the legislative backburner because there’s not enough time in a parliamentary year to get them passed. I personally know about one important Bill that has been waiting seven years to get a slot on the legislative agenda. It still hasn’t passed and I’m sure there are many more.

On a less idealistic level, the pressure to keep on top of the whole legislative program will also expose the Indies to “helpful” lobbyists, keen to alleviate the load by providing “pre-cooked” legislative analysis. One needs to think no further than the assistance that Manildra will provide them on ethanol or Telstra on the NBN.

I believe we face a similar conundrum in the Senate. While the eight Green senators will have better resources, and a party platform, with which to assess every Bill, they will still hold out for their preferred position on every piece of legislation. Inevitably this will slow down the legislative process too.

While some might say that a legislative log-jam is a small price to pay for a kinder, gentler Parliament, I would disagree. Legislative uncertainty and delay can lead to less transparency and less accountability, as well as economic uncertainty. None of these are good for the Australian community.

This post was also featured at The Notion Factory