Budget deadline a sticky business

Ssniffin' Glue was the hand-scrawled bible of London's '70s punk scene, a must-read for angry mohawked types. But for Treasurer Wayne Swan (pictured), it was more a case of Settin' Glue last Monday as he and his staff battled to get their own manifesto, the budget, off to the printers.

Ssniffin' Glue was the hand-scrawled bible of London's '70s punk scene, a must-read for angry mohawked types. But for Treasurer Wayne Swan (pictured), it was more a case of Settin' Glue last Monday as he and his staff battled to get their own manifesto, the budget, off to the printers.

CBD's Canberra spies say Swan - who fancies Bruce Springsteen over the Sex Pistols - together with his staff and Treasury officials, were tinkering with the figures right up to the last possible moment. That last possible moment was 5.15am on Tuesday, when the document was sent off, whipped through the printing presses and back to Parliament House in time to be devoured by the lock-up's waiting press pack that afternoon.

The reason the documents can't be sent any later: glue. If the budget had gone to the printer any later than 6am, the glue holding the pages together would not have had time to set ... making Swannie's figures even more rubbery than they already are.

Heated Icehouse

One man who knows that rock'n'roll can be a little rough is Icehouse manager Keith Welsh.

"So many of the disputes wind up with that term, when somebody says, 'F--- you'," he told CBD. "That's kind of like the turning point."

A trained mediator, the music industry veteran reckons creative types have difficulty talking to each other about who owns what when they're making art.

"You're talking about band members who leave the band - people who thought they were entitled to something, the drummer who doesn't understand that his drum part on the record doesn't, under the general scheme of things, constitute part of the songwriting."

He says disputes often blow up over issues that could have been fixed much earlier if people had actually talked to each other.

Creative types can wrangle over as little as 5 per cent of a song that earns only a few hundred dollars, leading to embittered band mates who "become very boring around the dinner table", or over millions of dollars in design work.

"It's far better to have the conversation now and work it out than it is later on," Welsh said.

He pointed out that the dispute over whether Men at Work's Down Under pillaged a riff from children's tune Kookaburra cost a fortune when it went to court. "No one won except the lawyers," he said.

Welsh, Hoodoo Gurus manager Michael McMartin and lawyer Adrian McGruther will be talking through the nuances, subtleties and tantrums of creative industry disputes on Saturday in Sydney as part of the Vivid festival. The event, titled "Two managers and a lawyer say f--- you", is at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the distinctly un-rock'n'roll time of 10am.

Conference crazy

It's set to be a week of record low productivity in the resources sector, with countless talkfests getting under way. Scores of junior miners will arrive in Broken Hill on Monday for the conference some punters are dubbing "the new diggers and dealers".

At the same time, a more politically correct affair kicks off in Sydney, where AusAid will host its Mining for Development conference featuring Mozambique's Resources Minister, Esperanca Bias - whose profile has soared since Rio Tinto took $3 billion worth of write-downs in her country. On Tuesday the Austmine Conference gets under way in Perth, and the Australia-China Minerals Investment Summit opens in Darwin. Both will be finished in time for exhausted execs to catch a red-eye to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Conference in Sydney on Thursday, where big miners will debate new European laws that force them to reveal more about their spending.

There will be no respite once the weekend comes around, with the four-day Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Conference starting in Brisbane. All of which proves that if there's one sector that's ripe for some M&A activity, it's the resources conference industry.

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bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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