The last gasp is a wry take on the week's biggest news stories, every week. This week, the appointment of a new World Bank president sparks momentary panic, NBN Co fails to find a parking spot and BHP Billiton can’t work out how jobs were advertised that didn’t exist.
It’s just ‘Jim’
In a move that caused some of the biggest double takes ever seen, American Jim Yong Kim was appointed as the latest president of the World Bank this week. The appointment of Kim, who is of Korean descent and currently serves as president of Dartmouth College, caused much mirth given his name’s phonetic similarity to the former and current leaders of North Korea. Officials said the appointment is an indication that a missile launch is not all you need to get a bit of power on the global stage and also expressed their hopes that Kim’s tenure would exceed that of North Korea’s latest rocket. The move was applauded by US President Barack Obama, who was behind his surprise nomination. Former US president George Bush also made comments on Kim’s appointment, but it is not yet clear whether he was speaking in Korean or English.
Coal mines might fly
Back home, another industrial relations scuffle between Australian unions and big business broke out this week when the CFMEU discovered an online advertisement offering contract workers ‘security of long-term position’ at the BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance’s Norwich Park coal mine, which it decided to close, resulting in jobs losses at the mine. BHP appeared before Fair Work Australia yesterday to give further details on the closure, with the company saying the ad was posted by a third party without its knowledge and that it had no intention of reopening the mine on the back of a non-union workforce. While this was true, confusion reigned around the timing of the placement of the ad on April 3, roughly six weeks after the company had begun reviewing the mine's viability. Despite this grey area, unions expressed deep gratitude that this was a first in Australian industrial relations history and bore no similarities to Qantas’ inability, late last year, to explain how it booked hotel rooms en masse to accommodate passengers who would be affected by the grounding of its entire fleet before it thought of the idea.
In what could be the first time the government-associated entity has been accused of wasting taxpayer money, NBN Co revealed this week it had signed away $660 million in public funds on contracts to build and launch satellites for the network without first securing the correct licencing for the room needed for them in space. This room, known as "orbital parking spots”, can only be secured by applying to the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations’ communications agency. NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said that while there was only a "very, very small” possibility the satellites would have to be launched without the proper approval, he was happy to pop them in his parking spot at work until the matter is resolved.
Bob’s your predecessor
Christine Milne stepped into Bob Brown’s shoes for the first time this week, and wasted no time in reaffirming the heartfelt, warm relations between the Greens and the Australian business community. Milne also took aim at the government, claiming she did support its flagship plans to return the budget to surplus. Wayne Swan hit back, claiming the Greens would be ‘nuts’ if they didn’t support the plan. It was a wise move from the Treasurer, as the last thing the Greens need right now is to have a reputation around parliament for being crazies.
Name change natter
A trend has developed in recent weeks with companies looking to change their names in order to more accurately reflect the nature of their businesses. A couple of weeks ago, OneSteel looked to change its name to Arrium and more recently woodchipper Gunns also flagged a potential name change. In a slight variation on the trend, there were whispers this week that Gunns had decided that instead of changing its name it would broaden its operations to more closely reflect its name. Unfortunately the potential move sparked nationwide concern that Gunns’ diversification to firearms might undo the current good standing it holds in the community as a result of the proposed Bell Bay pulp mill.
It was sadly looking like we would not hear from any of Australia’s beloved billionaires this week, but just as all looked lost, Solomon Lew stepped up to the plate. In a case that is likely the only bun fight between a billionaire and their relations over a family trust in living memory, Lew was seeking a suppression order to stop the media reporting on a multi-million dollar family trust battle. In his defence, Lew’s barrister said the media had portrayed his client as a "greedy ogre”. Lew allegedly said he was fine with the 'greedy ogre' tag provided no comparisons were drawn between him and Gina Rinehart.
– Finance spokesman Andrew Robb came out in defence of ANZ’s surprise rate hike earlier this week, with Opposition leader Tony Abbott immediately distancing himself from his offsider’s comments. Abbott’s public line was that the banks could stand up for themselves, but others said it was because he was concerned at Robb’s last name being in any way connected with banks and large amounts of money.
– The push for a second Sydney airport ramped up this week, but New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell is opposed to the move, preferring the option of an upgrade to Canberra Airport supported by a high-speed rail link. The Greens are rumoured to prefer a variation of the two options, with solar-powered flying trains operating between the two cities.