||Issue No. 328||13 October 2006|
Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
Unions: Industrial Wasteland
International: Two Bob's Worth
Economics: National Interest
Environment: The Real Dinosaur
History: Only In Spain?
Review: Clerk Off
The Unpromised Land
The lightening rod was a subbing glitch in Sydney's Daily Telegraph that turned an ANZ IT centre, housing 1400 workers whose work was once done by Australians, into 'a call centre'.
The response from ANZ to this error was ferocious - immediate threats to pull five million dollars in advertising from News Ltd, threats of legal actions, demands for retractions.
Australia's largest exporter of jobs to India used this tactical advantage to construct a straw man and then burn it down. ANZ does not export call centre jobs and had no plans to and any suggestion that it would do so was wrong.
But hold on, who but the sub-editor had ever mentioned call centres?
For weeks the Finance Sector union had been raising concerns about the off shoring of IT and data processing jobs, from the skills drain from Australia to the security of sensitive personal information that is no longer subject to Australian privacy laws.
The reporter involved, Luke McIlveen, is no patsy of the unions; in fact he was the reporter responsible for the scurrilous and damaging attack on the ACTU's IR advertising campaign a few months ago.
But to his credit, on this one he had picked up the story and run with it, all the way to the source of the story, Bangalore, where he discovered the real driver of \off-shoring - university trained graduates who see a $100 per week job as a passport out of poverty.
And there was so much more to find in Bangalore, until some one decided to beat a story that didn't need any embellishment.
Now the broadsheets are having great time at McIlveen's expense, after all he is a big target who has never been scared of hitting up a story. But on this one they are wrong, the same story appeared in other News Ltd titles without reference to the 'call centre'.
But while these high-brow outlets were indulging in a bit of old fashioned one upmanship they were missing the real story - a leading corporate exerting legal threats and commercial pressure to end a campaign that is clearly hurting it.
Off-shoring is one of those classic issues that define the gap between the business world and the Australian people - we know the public hate the idea of off-shoring - they hate the double standard soft Australian companies training on patriotism and then sacking locals; and they hate the idea their information is in foreign hands. We know because when we poll the issue it is not a 45-55 split it is a 90-10 split, crossing political and social divides.
But we also know that business is its own logic and easy ways to cut labour costs, regardless of the human impact, are just too compelling.
After this week we know something else - although the ''quality' media chose to ignore it - the Prime Minister thinks this is all OK.
This is what he told Federal Parliament this week when asked by the Opposition leader his position on the off-shoring of Australians' personal information.
"Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition appreciates it when it suits him, but on occasions when it does not suit him he does not appreciate that in a globalised world lots of tasks flow across borders from one country to another.
" Just as this country wants the advantages of globalisation, so it should be that we must accept that part of a globalised world is a much freer flow of information, and the idea that you can have an effective regulatory regime of the type he is talking about ignores the realities of the modern world."
Sounds suspiciously like Paul Keating on manufacturing jobs just before he got punted from office.
Off shoring is news and, subbing glitches aside, it won't go away.
This is the story that our leaders and business do not want the Australian public reading: humans are economic units; for whom they bear no responsibility. Let's hope the Tele takes the hit from ANZ and keeps on top of this killer yarn.
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